The Public Rental Board was established under the Housing (Amendment) Decree No 12 of 1989 to take over the rental operations of Housing Authority. The amendment also now requires Public Rental Board to manage the rental scheme on an economic basis without incurring a loss.
There are 344 units in total at Raiwaqa and Raiwai four – storey buildings; five blocks each in the two estates. Out of the above total, about two hundred tenants still occupy units that have been determined to be structurally defective in an earthquake situation by three independent engineering consultants. Tenants have been advised by the Board not to pay rentals from March 2004 resulting in the Board foregoing rental income of around $0.25m annually.
In 2005, the Board of Directors of Public Rental Board approved the four options as recommended by management to speed up vacating of units. The four options are:
- Financially disadvantaged tenants to move to HART
- Remain with PRB
- Move to home ownership
- Relocation to village
The Board carried out another survey this year to obtain income levels of tenants in the two estates and found out that about 119 tenant households earn income greater than $125 per week. This group is targeted for home ownership particularly with Housing Authority. Confirmations received from HA is that 40 tenants have had their applications approved, nine have chosen relocation to their respective villages, four have been moved to HART and the remaining tenants either are undecided or would like to remain with PRB.
The survey revealed 90% of tenants are indigenous Fijians, 8% other races and 2% indo Fijians and on average five family members live in a flat with the largest number of overcrowding per flat is twelve.
Twenty eighty tenants declared earning a weekly gross income of less than $60 and are considered in the poverty line and should be relocated to HART. It was found out that there are tenants who live outside their earnings which mean that their declared income was below the overall household expenditure.
A separate group of tenants have been found to earn more than $300 per week and this group should actually be encouraged to move out into home ownership.
Staff of PRB doing field work met with some challenges in that there were tenants who were reluctant to give information in spite of repeated visits to them.
Waila 3B HA Land
The options mentioned above come with incentives to encourage tenants to take options that are appropriate to them. For home ownership, the Board of Directors had approved the amount of $5000 towards assisting them for starting up at the new location. This amount was derived from a building plan with components of materials and labour.
The plan was not approved by the previous government and not until late last year that the Board revisited this option with plan back to tenants. Tenants have been coming to inspect the plan drawn out to scale on the ground to give them a better appreciation of size and layout of the proposed building.
The Board had initiated the move to build a start up house in Waila 3B and invite the Interim Minister for Women, Social Welfare and Housing together with the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary for an inspection on Friday 18th May 2007 to give them a physical appreciation on the ground of what has been planned and also to allow for comments and perhaps point the way forward for tenants who may still be undecided.
The funds for construction were from the balance of $500,000 given out by government in year 2004 as a grant towards commencement of relocation of these tenants.
The tenants have been reminded through meetings on block basis with management that funds and availability of lots were very limited and they were to be served on first come first served basis. It has been a real challenge to influence tenants to move away from their present location with all the assistance given like land cost subsidy, construction cost fully met and construction done by PRB. Because of the rise in materials costs, the tenants have been asked to pay for some labour costs.