Some of the cooperative houses that took land from the City Administration in Aqaqi Qality District stand in the Alem Bank neighbourhood.

The city’s land management bureau is investigating close to 900 associations that took land from the City Administration to build residential units in Aqaqi Qality District that are now suspected of constructing houses illegally.

The City Administration’s Land Development & Management Bureau also halted giving any public services such as clearance for selling and buying properties and giving construction permits to these associations. The Administration is also working to verify whether the 881 associations have legal title deeds.

Each housing cooperative has 12 or 24 members. The members of the cooperatives initially deposited 8,000 Br in a bank account and began receiving plots of land from the Bureau starting in 2003. Most of the members of the associations received 94Sqm of land.

The land tenure office has started the investigation after receiving reports from different people, according to Sahle Fersh, general manager at the Land Tenure Office in the City Administration.

The Office conducted an investigation on 70 of the cooperatives at the end of last fiscal year. Among them, some are on the list of the report, while the others were randomly investigated, according to Sahle.

"Out of the investigated cooperatives," said Sahle, "twelve of them were found with title deeds that need to be verified."

Following the initial investigation, the City Administration ordered the Aqaqi Qality District to start investigating the rest of the houses owned by the cooperatives. For the investigation, a committee of 11 members was formed by the District's land management office and it started the investigation last September.

Homebuyers under the cooperative unions received their title deeds after 30pc of the house was constructed. Until the houses reached that level, the houses will have common title deeds. When the homebuyers receive their title deeds, they will return the common title deeds.

‘‘When some of the cooperatives returned the initial deeds,’’ said Geletaw Yimer, bureau head of housing cooperatives at Aqaqi Qaliti District, ‘‘they also mistakenly returned the accreditation certificate of their cooperatives too, which was supposed to be kept with them at all times.’’

The accreditation certificate assures their legal ownership status of the houses.

The other issue was some of the files of the cooperatives had been misplaced in the wrong offices of the District, according to Geletaw.

‘‘But it doesn’t mean that there aren't illegal houses," he said. "We haven’t finished our investigation yet.”

So far, the land management bureau has managed to investigate 200 houses. The investigation also includes checking whether the cooperatives had initially deposited the required money when they were established. The office also alleges that some of the cooperative unions have the same names.

“It is a delay in response from the banks that have kept us from finishing the investigation earlier,” he said.

However, the service halt of the bureau has affected some individuals like Dawit Hailu, a farmer who is engaged in agribusiness in Adama.

Dawit leased a 94Sqm plot of land for one million Br nine months ago. He leased the land to build a four-storey house, hoping to borrow money using the house as collateral and expand his business. The current probe halted the loan process he was proceeding with at the bank.

“My money is devaluing, since I couldn't get access to a loan,” Dawit said.

An urban and regional development expert who has been in the sector for more than a decade suggested the land management office should use an electronic system to solve such kinds of problems.

“If we fail to create an organised system for land management, it will easily be exposed to land fraud, since land is everyone’s demand," Engida Tadie, a lecturer at Kotebe Metropolitan University, said.

Engida also suggests that managing the system should be conducted by professionals who have enough knowledge about the land issue.

“The information flow from weredato district and further to the City Administration must be digitalised,” he added.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 14,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1024]

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