Squatter Upgrading: The Lagilagi Project
|Lagilagi ground-breaking ceremony|
The People's Community Network Housing Project
at Lagilagi (Jittu, Suva)
Fr Kevin J. Barr
The People’s Community Network is a registered Non-Government Organisation representing a group of 162 squatter settlements throughout Fiji. It works on the understanding that squatters are part of the city and should not be evicted and sent to the outskirts of the city. Rather they should be assisted to gain secure land tenure where they are living (or on available land closeby) and erect decent housing for their families. To do this they need to build up their savings and participate in decisions for their development.
Lagilagi Housing Project
The People’s Community Network has initiated a pilot housing project at Lagilagi (Jittu Estate) to build up to 152 houses over a three year period. The Lands Department has granted a community lease of 2.5060 hectares of land at Lagilagi (Jittu Estate) to the People’s Community Network for a period of 99 years (CL27907).
The project involves funding from three sources – Government ($1.4m), an overseas Donor agency (MISEREOR, Germany $1.3m) and the savings from the squatter families. The people will repay about half or one third of the cost of the house in installments over a period of 12 years. The money the people repay will become a revolving fund to enable more houses to be built. As well the people also provide their labour or “sweat equity” during the construction of the houses. As part of this “sweat equity” 20 - 25 people from the community will be trained as blocklayers and as carpenters/builders by the Fiji National University Training Centre. This ensures that people in the community (particularly young people) receive skills training and that these skills are available for future buildings.
The people will pay one third the cost of the house over a period of 12 years and then own their houses through strata titles but the land will belong to the People’s Community Network. If anyone wishes to move out of the settlement then they sell their house back to the community and it is re-sold to a new family which is part of the PCN savings scheme within the community.
It is hoped that, if the pilot project works well, it can be continued in the rest of Jittu Estate and be duplicated in other squatter settlements where secure land tenure can be acquired. Members of the People’s Community Network have been part of savings groups so that they are already putting aside money to pay for their houses. Their enthusiasm for saving has been very encouraging.
The project is unique insofar as it brings together money from government, overseas funding and people’s savings. Because the people are contributing their savings as well as their “sweat equity”, the project is not a “hand out” but rather a “hand up” to assist people in squatter settlements gain secure land tenure and better housing.
We aim not just to build houses but to build communities and to this purpose we have formed a number of committees in the communities we work in. These committees are for education and skills training of youth, health and hygiene, care of the elderly, inter-cultural and inter-religious understanding, savings and small business, women’s groups.
Building: We have been happy and very grateful to discover that some professional technical expertise such as town planners (SCOPE Pacific), architects (AAPi), structural engineers and builders (Shiri Singh), services engineers (Irwin Alsop), quantity surveyors (Williams Associated Limited) and others from the private sector have been willing to offer their assistance (and possibly equipment) at little or no cost in order to plan the project. The concept plan for the whole project has already been approved. All plans for Phase One were sent to Suva City Council for their approval.
The Civil Works for Phase One of the Project have already been completed by civil contractors (MultiWorks) under the supervision of Samu Silatolu as the Construction Supervisor from Wood and Jepsen and were paid for by Government.
Phase One has been divided into three sections 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3. The sections 1.1 and 1.2 plus some further civil works for the construction of building platforms has been put out for tender and FORTEC has won the contract. This will be signed in mid June and construction should begin by the end of June or early July. They will complete this section of the project in 36 weeks.
The 20 – 25 members of the community who will be trained by the Fiji National University Training Team have been registered with the National Employment Centre (NEC) and gone through their initial training. This means that for the first eight weeks of their training government will pay them $30 a week and this will be matched by $30 a week from PCN. The FNU Training Team has assured us that, because they will constantly supervise those in training, the job will be well done.
Funding: When the project was costed almost three years ago it was estimated that the whole project would involve the building of 100 housing units at a cost of F$3.2m. Now the project has grown to 152 houses plus a community hall and kindergarten. Costs have also gone up considerably especially following the devaluation of the Fiji dollar by 20%. The total project is now estimated to cost F$8.7m.
It is evident that we will need more funding. Unfortunately MISEREOR has told us that they cannot increase their funding further. Government will continue to match other overseas funding which we can access. We hope to request funding from the European Union and from some of the Embassies or High Commissions.
When some of the buildings have been erected we may also be able to persuade some of the bigger local companies and banks to contribute towards a building which can be named in their honour.
Criteria for Provision of Housing at Lagilagi
Priority will be given to those who had to vacate the site for the building project and moved to other areas of Jittu or to temporary housing with relatives. Other beneficiaries may come from other parts of Jittu, Wailea or Muanivatu. However all those who benefits must:
- Not have land and houses elsewhere;
- Not have incomes above the tax threshold;
- Be consistent saving members with PCN;
- Be willing to pay one third of the cost of their unit over a 12-15 year period;
- Be willing to be part of the community development of Lagilagi.
The elderly and disabled will receive special attention.
Submission of Detailed Building Plans to Council
Approval of Detailed Building Plans
Finalisation of Detailed Costings from the Quantity Surveyor
Preparation of Tender Documentation
Tender Evaluation Period
Award of Contract
FNU Building and Training Teams – beginning of Training for 20 people from the community.
Contractor Mobilisation to Site
Fencing of Site and Site Office
Commencement of Building Works