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Government to impose legislation that would enforce property maintenance or allow the state to acquire abandoned properties of delinquent owners


by Eulana Weekes

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is taking the bull by the horns as it moves ahead to enact the required legislation to rectify issues of abandoned lots in the country.

The Community Beautification and Safety Bill will soon be finalised and put forward for debate in the National House of Assembly, said Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Garth Wilkin.

During the Prime Minister’s Press Conference on July 13, 2023, Wilkin explained that the Bill, once passed, will demand that property owners clean their property or stand the risk of losing them.

“The cleansing and cleaning of these abandoned homes and lots will be performed by private small businesses, and the cost will be attached to the land owners’ property tax. The land owners will get sufficient notice to cleanse and clean before any action is taken; and for long-standing abandoned properties, if the land owner repeatedly does not take action to cleanse and clean their lots, then the state can potentially acquire those lots to repurpose for housing for persons, particularly in constituencies where there is little land available,” Wilkin stated.

There is much evidence of untidy lots in residential areas that appear to be heavily overgrown with long grass and weeds, becoming small forests in many cases. Some abandoned buildings, many partly overrun by bush, have been living spaces for vagrants; additionally, concerns have been raised about those lots being habitats for criminals or hideouts for firearms and other resources used in crime.

Mr Dwyer Astaphan told WINN FM that many countries have implemented policies to encourage individuals to maintain the appearance of their property. He said he advocated for adopting the concept about 28 years ago whilst in Cabinet, but it was deemed harsh. Astaphan said he gives full support to the legislation.

“It is something that I had advocated [for] years ago when I was in office, that if you own a piece of land and say five years have passed and you don’t take care of your land, you’re creating a security risk, a health risk, a fire risk to the entire community; and the interest of the community must always supersede the interest of individuals, as important as individual rights to own property and so on are concerned; and they are of critical importance. So, it is a concept that I agree with.”

The former parliamentarian said from a densely populated area like Newtown to large upscale areas like Frigate Bay; there is evidence of abandoned lots or properties. Astaphan suggested that no matter the area, if a period of five years has passed and nothing is done to maintain the property, then the state should acquire the property and make it available to a more responsible individual.

“I support the concept, wherever it is, and let the property become available to somebody who wants to use the property and who understands his or her responsibility to the community to maintain the property properly.”


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