Housing through the formal sector has generally proven to be beyond the affordability levels of the low-income / no – income households, which form the larger portion of the people – in – need-of housing in Guyana.
This inability to legitimately acquire dwelling units has led to squatting on vacant parcels of land, mainly owned by government or the state, in many cases, in high risk, environmentally unsafe areas such as the sea defence and other drainage reserves.
There are presently over 216 squatting areas countrywide. Many of these are currently in varying stages of being upgraded towards the attainment of housing scheme status. One hundred and fifty four (154) of these have been brought under the regularisation programme and are being transformed into regularised housing areas. The remaining areas are either road reserves, sea – defence reserves, other drainage reserves such as the banks of canals and are categorised as zero tolerance areas, in that, they cannot be regularised.`
Thus, while efforts are being made to halt squatting, government has assumed its social responsibility by regularising squatting areas that are not zero tolerance areas, as part of the strategy for improving living standards of the people. Squatting areas that have been/are being categorised and identified as areas, that could be regularised are subject to the following process, that is (the completion of surveys including subdivision of the land, verification of occupancy of house lots, development of infrastructure and granting of land titles to allottees). For this special purpose the Settlements Regularisation & Upgrading Department was established within the Central Housing & Planning Authority. This department maintains an inventory of Squatting Areas countrywide and prioritizes these areas for regularisation, applying the concept of incremental development of infrastructure, together with assessment of community support for, and participation in the upgrading activities
Functions of the Settlements Regularisation & Upgrading Department
- To organise and sensitise squatter communities on their roles and responsibilitities in the regularisation process and the benefits to be derived therefrom.
- Regularise squatting areas that evolve on lands, which are suitable for housing development and can be upgraded to the level of housing schemes.
- Inventorise squatters’ occupation and document each household profile.
- Prepare lists of verified squatters after verification of their bona-fides and facilitate the granting of free hold titles.
- Prepare relocation plans for squatters in areas not suitable for housing development such as road reserves, sea defence reserves, other drainage reserves.
Criteria for Regularisation:
- Request by a delegation from the particular Squatter Settlement for Government’s intervention towards the fulfillment of their desire to legitimately acquire house lots in the occupied area.
- The occupied land is not reserved for any of the following: sea defense, cemetery, roadway or road expansion, drainage canal, community playgrounds, etc.
- Suitability of area for housing development, taking into consideration factors such as the nature of the soil and threats of erosion, flooding etc.
- Proximity of area to basic services related to education, waste disposal, potable water supply and health care.
- The land must be Government or State Owned Land.