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Ex-minister denies unfair allocation of social housing flats

A committee is investigating the previous government’s housing projects.



Former housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizz has denied allegations of unfairly awarding flats under the previous government’s flagship social housing scheme.

In a statement Thursday, Muizz dismissed claims made by a committee formed by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to investigate the Hiyaa project, the Gedhoruverikan project and the scrapped Gulhi Falhu housing project.

The evaluation of applications by 6,723 people who were assured flats under the Hiyaa project is ongoing, committee members told the press Wednesday morning.

Issues flagged so far included full marks scored for forms submitted without information on living situation and a flat awarded to a family that earns above MVR85,000 (US$5,500) a month while more deserving applicants failed to make the final list published in November.

Allegations of unfairness were fuelled by the housing ministry’s refusal to disclose the recipients, who were chosen from more than 22,000 forms submitted under 12 categories.

When recipients were announced under a previous housing scheme, it was alleged that a “minister’s list” was compiled after applicants were phoned by the first lady’s campaign office to check their political allegiance.

The recipients were kept anonymous.

Fathimath Rasheeda, chair of the inquiry committee, announced that members have decided to “publicise a list of flat winners,” after which unsuccessful applicants would be invited to submit complaints.

“Individuals who submit complaints would have anticipated a certain score based on their housing needs and living condition. If we get such complaints, we will reassess those forms,” said committee member Ahmed Tholal.

But Muizz, the former housing minister, insisted that recipients were chosen fairly based on a transparent and publicised criteria or point system.

He also expressed concern over allegations by committee members that applications forms were “thrown on the ground” and left in disarray.

The forms were arranged by serial number and packed in boxes when he left office on November 17, Muizz said, raising doubt over the legitimacy of the forms under scrutiny by the committee.

The construction of 7,000 flats under the Hiyaa project is ongoing in Hulhumalé, a reclaimed island under development as a new urban centre near the capital Malé.

Lack of adequate housing has been a perennial crisis in the Maldives with nearly 40 percent of the country’s population crammed into the 2.2 square mile island of Malé. After decades of migration to the densely-packed capital, many families share a single room and most people pay exorbitant rents to live in slum-like conditions.