HDC evicts illegal Greenvale tenants

On the night Natisha Sorzano, her hus­band At­i­ba and their two sons moved in­to a home at the Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion’s (HDC) Green­vale Park last Au­gust, they went to the near­by La Hor­quet­ta Po­lice Sta­tion to let of­fi­cers know they would be mov­ing in­to the area.

“You hear sto­ries about all kind of dra­ma so I told my hus­band the same night we were look­ing to move in that we should go to the po­lice sta­tion and let them know we got the doc­u­ments (for the house) and that we are mov­ing in be­cause we did not want the neigh­bours to feel we are mov­ing in il­le­gal­ly,” Sorzano said.

Sorzano said she showed the po­lice the doc­u­ments she had and was wel­comed to the area.

The dra­ma that Sorzano hoped to avoid more than a year ago lit­er­al­ly came to her doorstep yes­ter­day.

The fam­i­ly was yes­ter­day evict­ed from #179 Al­pha Av­enue af­ter be­ing deemed to be oc­cu­py­ing the unit il­le­gal­ly by the HDC.

Speak­ing to the T&T Guardian about the de­ci­sion, HDC man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Brent Lyons said the fam­i­ly (which he did not iden­ti­fy) was evict­ed af­ter they pro­duced doc­u­ments that ap­peared to be fraud­u­lent.

Lyons said HDC of­fi­cials were in Green­vale as part of their pro­gramme to help res­i­dents in the area who were af­fect­ed by the re­cent flood­ing, when it was re­alised a fam­i­ly was liv­ing at what should have been an emp­ty house.

“On Sat­ur­day, No­vem­ber 3 and Mon­day, No­vem­ber 5, the HDC met with two of the oc­cu­pants in an at­tempt to re­solve the mat­ter. In con­ver­sa­tion with the oc­cu­pants, it was clear that they were un­able to sub­stan­ti­ate their claims and all the doc­u­ments which they pre­sent­ed, ap­peared to be coun­ter­feit,” a re­lease from the HDC stat­ed yes­ter­day.

“The HDC plead­ed with the oc­cu­pants to re­move their as­sets from the prop­er­ty by Wednes­day, No­vem­ber 7 be­fore the HDC ar­rives to ex­e­cute the evic­tion. On Wednes­day, No­vem­ber 7, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the HDC ar­rived on the site and re­moved the items.”

Lyons said be­cause the house in ques­tion is on stilts it was not as af­fect­ed oth­ers in the area dur­ing the re­cent flood­ing.

“The HDC has a ze­ro tol­er­ance pol­i­cy in re­la­tion to il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion and will con­tin­ue to re­move il­le­gal oc­cu­pants once they are dis­cov­ered,” the HDC stat­ed.

Yes­ter­day, how­ev­er, the Sorzanos claimed they were first con­tact­ed by the HDC in 2014.

“In 2014 they called us in for an in­ter­view and told us we were al­lo­cat­ed to go to Green­vale, they gave us a read­out and every­thing about what we would be pay­ing and how much the house cost and all that dra­ma but we nev­er got any call back af­ter that,” she said.

At the time the fam­i­ly was rent­ing a house in Cunu­pia. But in 2017 the land­lord, who was liv­ing in Venezuela, de­cid­ed he was re­turn­ing home with his fam­i­ly and need­ed the house.

“We went back in­to HDC, ex­plained the sit­u­a­tion and were told to go up­stairs and meet a guy who would help us,” Sorzano said.

Sorzano said the of­fi­cer helped them.

“Hon­est­ly, I gen­uine­ly think that the guy tried to help us, I just think he did not do it through the prop­er chan­nels. He gave us doc­u­men­ta­tion to move in­to the place, he gave us the unit num­ber, the me­ter num­ber, every­thing on it and told us to go ahead,” she said.

“We were al­so giv­en doc­u­ments to go to WASA and T&TEC and we are pay­ing those bills in our name.”

Sorzano claimed they did not give the man who helped them any mon­ey.

“He nev­er asked for a cent and we were told by peo­ple down­stairs in HDC that he helps peo­ple so that’s why we went to him. So we were think­ing if you help­ing peo­ple you know what you do­ing, he nev­er took a cent from us and be­cause of that we put more trust in him,” Sorzano said.

“Talk­ing to the guy now, when we ask­ing him about pay­ment he said that he dealt with the PS (per­ma­nent sec­re­tary) and the min­is­ter about it, that they know about our sit­u­a­tion and they are work­ing on the doc­u­ments, and that would have been the ex­cuse ever since.”

Iron­i­cal­ly, while the Sorzanos were spared by the flood­ing, it was be­cause of the HDC’s at­ten­tion to flood vic­tims that their sit­u­a­tion was un­earthed.

Sorzano said an HDC of­fi­cial came to the home last Thurs­day and told them they were plan­ning a meet­ing there. She said when they told the HDC of­fi­cials they were liv­ing there, they were sur­pris­ing­ly told that ac­cord­ing to HDC records the house should have been emp­ty.

Sorzano said she and her hus­band went to the HDC’s Port-of-Spain head of­fice on Mon­day to try and rec­ti­fy the sit­u­a­tion and were in­stead es­cort­ed out of the build­ing. At that point, the HDC al­so gave them an ul­ti­ma­tum by Wednes­day.

The HDC re­turned yes­ter­day and car­ried out the evic­tion al­though they were not home at the time.

“We weren’t home and then we were told by the neigh­bours the HDC broke down our door and put all our things out­side,” Sorzano said.

Sorzano said the fam­i­ly con­tem­plat­ed sleep­ing in their car out­side the house last night.

“Even if I get some­where to stay I don’t know where I’m putting all my stuff. I have a full house so even if I have some­where to sleep tonight (last night) what am I go­ing to do with all that stuff, I can’t just leave it there be­cause peo­ple will try to steal it,” she said.

“So most­ly like we will have to sleep in our car un­der the house or on the road to be able to mon­i­tor the stuff.”

Lyons: We can­not con­done fraud

In an in­ter­view with the T&T Guardian yes­ter­day, Lyons said the HDC had to take ac­tion yes­ter­day.

“We ob­served them af­ter the flood and we ap­proached them and asked how come you are in this unit that isn’t al­lo­cat­ed to any­body and they said that they had doc­u­ments to prove that they were le­git­i­mate­ly in the place.

“They at­tempt­ed to pro­vide some doc­u­ments which all ap­peared to be fraud­u­lent and they went on to talk about hav­ing paid some­body some mon­ey and so on we gave them an op­por­tu­ni­ty, one, to move out be­fore we come and of­fi­cial­ly push you out and, two, to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on who you might have paid and what and all of that and we might be will­ing to con­sid­er and we had a fol­low-up meet­ing with them and they con­tin­ued to just tell un­truths,” Lyons said.

He said the HDC can­not ap­pear to con­done fraud.

“The is­sue re­al­ly is here is some­body who is il­le­gal­ly oc­cu­py­ing a unit that can le­git­i­mate­ly be giv­en to some­one else and more than that, it ap­pears that the trans­ac­tion, from what we have seen thus far, ap­pears to be fraud­u­lent, so that in it­self is an­oth­er is­sue and we can’t be seen to con­done that kind of thing. We have to take ac­tion against it and we have to shun that,” he said.

The HDC mean­while yes­ter­day es­tab­lished its Re­cov­ery Ser­vice Cen­tre for Green­vale Park Res­i­dents af­fect­ed by the re­cent flood­ing at #174 Al­pha Av­enue, five doors down from the unit the Sorzanos once called home.

- by Joel Julien

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