Has the Informal Settlement Unit gone quiet?

shanty towns

Has the Informal Settlement Unit gone quiet?

Say Something. Do Something.



Unlike other British Overseas Territories, the Turks and Caicos Islands is faced with a major problem of informal settlements. The informal settlements cover over 500 acres of land with 35 areas on the island of Providenciales and 9 areas on the island of Grand Turk.

I must tell you if there is one thing that bothers me so much is the growing number of informal settlements in my country. Therefore, I was so excited when the Government launched the Informal Settlement Unit in November 2022. However, I am concerned now because it has been more than a year and a couple of months now and I don’t see any evidence of the reduction in informal settlements. In fact, it seems that the Informal Settlement Unit has gone quiet.

What is an informal settlement?

An informal settlement is an area where structures are erected without permission from the Planning Department. In other words, these structures are illegal.

As a result of the informal settlements, it leads to an increase in illegals and an increase in shanty towns. Of course, there are individuals with legal status in the informal settlements but because there is no action being done, it opens and encourages more illegals to come to the islands because housing is available in these areas.

What is the Informal Settlement Unit? (ISU)

According to the ISU website, “The Turks and Caicos Islands Informal Settlements Unit (ISU) is a government organization tasked with finding solutions to the growing challenges experienced within and by informal settlements across the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The ISU is too quiet.

In 2023, there was the demolition of an area in the Bight and Five Cays respectively and this was a result of the Informal Settlement Unit. However, we have not observed any other demolition, and this is a big concern.

In October 2023, Justice Carlos Simons who is the Strategic Lead of the ISU stated on Financially Speaking that 150 notices of cease and desist were already issued. These notices were scheduled to expire at the end of November. Well, it is now the end of January, and it does not appear that any action has taken place.

It has been alleged that there was intervention by some authorities to put a halt to any action. I don’t know if this is true, but it certainly does appear to be so since there has been no demolition of the informal settlements.


I know our country has challenges especially since we have a housing crisis. The demolition of the informal settlements now may lead to other issues as there are no alternatives for these individuals to stay. Despite this challenge, we cannot continue to allow more informal settlements to take place. If the Government does not do anything, then this may be an incentive for others to continue building shanty towns.

However, I am of the belief that despite the challenges, we should immediately start the elimination of informal settlements. After all, if you are on a work permit, the employer is responsible for securing housing. If you are illegal, you should not be in the country. At the end of the day, no one should be constructing illegal structures. I have heard too many cases where the construction of illegal structures is not enforced on everyone.

It is also my understanding that some people were sold land that was never registered, or the land was not even owned by the alleged seller. The buyer now went and built on the land even though it was not legal. However, in any case, it is still illegal because the buyer never got a planning permit and planning would not even issue an approval because the land does not belong to them.

The other challenge we have is that people simply squat on private and crown land that they did not lease or buy. This too is illegal and is one of the reasons why there are so many informal settlements.


The ISU was set up for an initial period of three (3) years with a budget of $2 million for each year therefore a total of $6million.

I know the General Elections are a year away and I hope this does not in any way cause a further delay in the actions of the ISU.

I commend the Government for starting this initiative because no other Government was bold enough to get this ball rolling. However, the success of this initiative will be measured by the reduction or elimination of informal settlements. If this is not achieved, then the ISU should be considered as a failure.

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