Lalit has always campaigned for a right to an adequate and decent housing. This is so important for Lalit that based on this topic itself, we are asking you to vote for us, at this upcoming election.
What are we seeing today?
The housing crisis is worsening year after year. It is the case in Mauritius and Rodrigues and for Rodrigans, residing in Mauritius.
As such, some of our citizens are living packed tightly in small “inherited” houses, some living in houses contaminated with asbestos while some, with precarious working conditions, cannot even apply for a house from the NHDC due to very restrictive reimbursement terms and conditions. The previous government and the MSM-ML-Transfiz have jointly and in solido failed to answer in time to this issue of utmost importance and to meet this constantly growing demand. Rather than using our land to develop affordable and adequate housing for our citizens, our government has instead subsidised real-estate businesses, commercialising villas and highly expensive houses. At Lalit and in Muvman Lakaz and in Joint Committees with inhabitants, we have always fought together with those living in precarious housing conditions for a right to an adequate and decent housing.
Lalit on the right to an adequate and decent housing
Lalit and Muvman Lakaz have since the early 90’s, been against the Labour Party project at that time, to destroy houses of people living on state lands across Mauritius and Rodrigues. At that time, our moto was simple, “Build houses, instead of demolishing houses”. This successfully led to the Labour Party giving up on its idea, leading up to the regularisation of state lands residents instead of a crackdown.
In 1993, under the pressure of the IMF and World Bank, the MSM-MMM regime disbanded and closed the Central Housing Authority (CHA). As a reminder, the CHA was building houses for low income groups and the working classes. To replace this CHA, the then MSM-MMM government established the NHDC, a company based on profit rules and cost-effectiveness. This NHDC was never capable and still is not capable of providing housing to the big precarious working class, without payslip and fixed monthly income. We have fought against the high prices charged on NHDC houses, rendering housing unaffordable. In this fight, Lalit and Muvman Lakaz were supported by laid off CHA and Development Works Corporation (DWC) workers, who had been responsible for building houses and infrastructure for the working clas. Our fight even led to the unification of all the local trade unions and unions members across the country from 1996 until the early 2000, all against this IMF and World Bank project brought by successive governments. We were able revisit its position on affordable housing.
The blatant failure of this government to build 10,000 houses
The current supply for houses cannot simply match the great demand for houses. Based on our estimation, there is a housing deficit of around 100,000 for Mauritius, Agalega and Rodrigues. For the Chagos Archipelago, we believe that it is now the time to establish a plan for housing development and other vital infrastructure.
At the beginning of its mandate, the MSM-ML-PMSD government pledged to build 10,000 houses by the end of 2019. We are today at the end of its mandate and only 3,100 have been built, which is far, far from behind its initial plan. This clearly gives an idea of the lack of political will to build and supply adequate and decent housing to its citizens. In the meantime, the demand for adequate and decent housing keeps increasing.
However, during its mandate, the MSM-ML-Transfiz have nevertheless granted building permits, tax holidays and invested a lot on road development for the sugar industry oligarchs to build villas. One notable fact, the government spent Rs.650 M for a road network for the sole benefit of Omnicane. This clearly give an idea on this government priorities.
False propaganda on Home Owners
Lalit has also fight against the government and press propaganda that there is no housing crisis in Mauritius due to the supposed fact that out of 10 people, 9 are home owners. This false propaganda is based on the wrong definitions. They ask if you pay a rent, and if not, they write you down as a home owner. As such, based on this propaganda, if you do not pay rent, you do not have a housing problem. In 2013, Lalit was able to expose this blatant lie and false propaganda to the effect that the vast majority of our citizens are home owners. Lalit conducted a survey and study across our local branches in Mauritius. Out of 10, only 4 people considered themselves as a home owner. Most of the others live in what people have dubbed “inheritance houses” – the Code Napoleon divides estates up into smaller and smaller morsels, until some 14 – 20 families are supposed “home owners” of just one tiny housing estate house..
The Government must replace all asbestos contaminated houses
Based on its accumulated strong experience over time, Lalit has been able to raise awareness and lead a campaign for the replacement of asbestos contaminated houses by the government, an approximate amount of 2,000 EDC houses mostly, by new more secure houses. In 2015, the MSM-ML government conceded that a lot of families – some 2,000, were then residing in more than 59 EDC sites across Mauritius in asbestos-contaminated houses. If the government initially announced that asbestos houses would be demolished by Government and replaced, by 2019, they had pretended they never took this commitment. In fact, they did in the National Assembly. In 2018, Lalit, acting together with EDC residents across Mauritius, successfully held two big protest marches in Port-Louis. In the light of these July and October protests, the MSM-ML-Transfiz government had no other choice than starting an investigation on asbestos and announced the destruction of asbestos contaminated houses for those who can rebuild themselves, but ignoring their promise to replace them. So it has been a fight against this government just to make it keep its word about dismantling asbestos houses and rebuilding new ones. This struggle continues.
- create a public register for homeless families to enrol. For Rodrigues, ensure that the government grants a lease for new household to build an adequate and decent house.
- The government must start a proper housing project with the view to build 100,000 houses so as to combat this present housing crisis and increasing demand.
- Replace asbestos contaminated houses, 2,000 houses approximately, by more appropriate, secure and decent houses. The timetable for construction should be clearly communicated to the public.
- Lalit is in favour of a true and meaningful democratisation of land ownership, i.e. a land reform (not like the Labour Party plan to make a handful more medium sized capitalists become big ones. Land in Mauritius – not the case for other islands of our Republic - is still mostly privately owned by the sugar oligarchs which either monopolise the arable land with cane, or when in debt, they just sell the land off in real estate deals to rich people from abroad.
- Right to an adequate and decent housing be recognised as a constitutional right. With a constitutional right to an adequate and decent housing, the MSM-MMM government in 1993 would not have been able to close down indefinitely the CHA.