The Department of Public Lands’ Homestead Division gave away 16 lots in Kagman 2 and 3 in a lottery last Thursday at the agency’s conference room at the Joeten building in Dandan as part of an ongoing effort to cut back on its backlog.
Division director Irene Torres said they are trying their best to accommodate homestead applicants, starting with those who applied first even before the creation of the agency. DPL used to be the Marianas Public Land Authority and became a branch of the Executive Branch in February 2006.
Locating most of the homestead applicants has been one of the division’s biggest challenges. “[The applicants have] either…changed their address or their contact information.
“Reaching out to applicants, especially those who are years back, is our major challenge right now,” said Torres.
Of the homesteads given away in last Thursday’s lottery, the lots were either revoked by DPL or were surrendered by previous individuals who earned it through the program. Another homestead lottery is scheduled before the year ends.
Some of those who earned homestead lots last Thursday first applied for lots in the years 1992 to 1994. “We really thank them for their patience. But today is a really good day for all of you. We’re looking for applicants that are 20 years ago while some are 30 years ago. One here applied in 1988 while the rest are in the 1990s,” Torres said.
“If there are address changes or phone number changes [among homestead applicants], all that [makes it] hard to reach out and locate them. That’s why we always try to go out and locate them. We also announce our homestead lottery [on the radio] and even through Facebook. We’re trying everything so we could reach out to them,” she added.
She cited various factors that delayed the distribution of homestead lots, one of them possibly the transition period from MPLA to DPL in 2006.
“I don’t want to speak for the previous directors but I guess the transition was one of the causes why they have not issued homestead lots for some time. We’re now working our way up. We can’t work on just any year. We have to start from those who applied first.
“That’s why, with acting secretary Marianne Concepcion-Teregeyo, we are actively working on pushing for this program, pulling those applications out, gathering as much lots as we can, and start giving them away. There are still a lot of open lots. These are lots that were vacated for many years and have been inactive.”
“After this, we have 12 left that we’re still actively working on the permits. Inspecting the lots that were given if they have already built a house and complied or if they are not compliant,” said Torres, who added that her staff actively goes out to work on those lots to be awarded to other applicants through the lottery system.
Saipan is reserved just for village homesteads while Pagan is for agriculture.
One of the applicants who benefited from Thursday lottery, Virginian Camacho, said her 30-year dream of having her own homestead lot finally came true. “I want to build a house for my family right away. Hopefully, I could get the money. I’ve been waiting for a long time and I’m glad that I finally got it.”
“Now, I’m going to see how it goes. …Once we have a home, most likely I will move in with my family. Now, I will have to wait for the permit to be issued to us and their call so they could show us the lot,” added Camacho, who is currently living with her relatives. The lot consists of about 800 square meters in Kagman 3.
First lady Diann Torres, who witnessed the lottery program, was glad to see the homestead lots finally being awarded to applicants who’ve waited for more than 10 years.
“It is a happy day indeed. Like what the DPL acting secretary said for those who have long waited—some have waited for 30 years—I’m excited to hear we have another [homestead lottery] by the end of the year,” she said.
She also encouraged people to take advantage of the homestead lottery program, “This is a good thing since people need it. It will, of course, [improve] their lives; a lot of people here would have homes. For those who have applied, be patient, DPL is looking at available lands on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota; Pagan [agriculture homestead] is coming up; so, have patience, it is a long process, but their time will come,” the first lady said.