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Minister urges new government to continue housing scheme

Chosen applicants could sue if the new administration failed to award flats, the housing minister said.



Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizz on Monday urged the president-elect to continue the outgoing administration’s flagship Hiyaa housing scheme.

Briefing the press after the final list of people to be awarded flats was published in the government gazette, Muizz said the list was an “official document” with legal weight.

He suggested successful applicants could sue if the incoming administration scrapped the list or failed to award the flats.

“We’ve planned everything. This is President [Abdulla] Yameen’s progress…It should be done responsibly, professionally, and continued as it is. Stopping it because he would get credit shouldn’t be done. He will get credit,” he said.

More than 22,000 people applied for the flats and 11,000 were chosen after an evaluation process.

“This is housing for about 44,000 people,” Muizz said.

The Hiyaa project was launched in November last year with state-owned enterprises to finance the construction of more than 17,000 flats in Hulhumalé, a reclaimed island suburb of the overcrowded capital.

Muizz said 7,000 flats are expected to be complete by July. Work has yet to begin on a further 2,500 flats but contracts have been signed with the Housing Development Corporation, he added.

“We have not started the project, but our hope is that, without any delay, the next government will continue this sincerely and start building. Everything is planned,” he said.

President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is due to take the oath of office on November 17.

At her daily press briefing, Solih’s spokeswoman Mariya Ahmed Didi said the new administration will look into the flat awarding process.

The public continues to doubt whether the flats were allocated fairly, the lawmaker said, referring to the ministry publishing an anonymous list of flat winners under a previous housing scheme.

It was alleged at the time that a “minister’s list” was compiled after applicants were phoned by the first lady’s campaign office to check their political allegiance.

Muizz denied any wrongdoing in allocating the Hiyaa flats.

There were more than 300 complaints when provisional lists were published in early October and more than 700 people were omitted when the list was finalised.

If a husband and wife were both chosen, one would have been removed from the list, he explained. Some names were removed over incorrect information such as falsely claiming residence in the capital.

The lack of adequate housing is one the most pressing social issues in the Maldives, where 39 percent of the country’s 341,256 population lives on the 2.2 square mile island of Malé. Most people live in slum-like conditions and many families share a single room.

The Hiyaa scheme was divided into several categories, including 500 flats for single mothers and fathers, 1,000 flats for the 18 to 40 age group, 1,044 flats for residents of Malé on a special municipality register, 1,000 flats for registered residents of Malé and 200 flats for people with special needs.

Some 455 flats were reserved for doctors and nurses but there were only 299 applicants. All the applicants under the teacher’s category would also be awarded flats, according to the housing ministry.

Muizz said all the applicants under the newly-wed category would also be assured flats as the number of applicants was less than the flat allocation.

A provisional list of chosen applicants under the category has been published with a one-week complaints period.