Strata Titles was among topics discussed at a stakeholder’s roundtable exploring options on land reform for the private sector hosted by the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) on Wednesday 31st July 2019.

It is the first substantive effort by SICCI to pose private sector views on land reforms in the country.

Commissioner of Lands at the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey, Mr Allan McNeil made a presentation about the Strata Title legislation, its application process as well as taking questions from SICCI members and private sector representatives who gathered for the forum.

Mr McNeil confirmed that the Strata Titles Act and Regulations has commenced on 1 July 2019 and anyone can now apply for a strata subdivision.

He said in order to apply, any individual must meet the following requirements:

·        Need to own a Fixed Term Estate.

·        Get a licenced surveyor to prepare a strata scheme plan, showing the lots on each floor.

·        Get a licenced surveyor to prepare a statement of strata scheme lot values (for unit entitlements).

·        Prepare a strata scheme description (a brief outline of what the development comprises) and proposed by-laws.

·        The strata scheme plan must be approved by the Surveyor General.

·        The statement of strata scheme lot values must be approved by the Valuer General.

·        The strata scheme description must be approved by the relevant Planning and Development Board (the subdivision / development itself must also be approved by this Board).

·        The developer can proceed to develop but the subdivision cannot be registered until after the building(s) are completed and habitable.

Mr McNeil added that the application for registration is submitted to the Commissioner of Lands, together with all the previously approved documents, and in addition evidence of insurance and a certificate from the relevant Planning and Development Board confirming that the development has been completed.

“After the Commissioner of Lands has approved the strata subdivision for registration, the Registrar of Titles closes the land register for the parcel that has been subdivided, and opens a new land register for the strata parcel with a new number for the strata scheme.  The Fixed Term Estate in the land parcel ceases to exist.

“Every new lot in the strata subdivision gets an entry on the land register, as a Fixed Term Estate,” Land Commissioner, Mr McNeil, said.

Strata Title is a form of land tenure that allows units in a building to be individually owned, while the “parent” land title is owned by all unit owners in common.

Strata Title is seen as an answer to the scarcity of land around Honiara and the high cost of rentals, as it would encourage more vertical development of land for medium and high-rise apartments.

It would also enable the development of more affordable units in Honiara City where land has become too expensive for average citizens.

SICCI Executive Officer, Mr Nelson Kere said the Strata Title Act is an important option for the country because land continues to be a problem when it comes to securing investment in Solomon Islands and can also be used to raise capital through financial institutions.

“As a Chamber, we believe that the Strata titles provision will maximise investment potential in new developments. It will provide the flexibility to sell some or all of the strata units upon completion of a new development,” he said.

Mr Kere said the Strata Title Act also has the potential to transform the Honiara Central Business District.

“Currently Government ministries, government agencies and other organizations including businesses rent office spaces, and in some cases, excessive rents are being charged.

“SICCI is confident that the strata titles will drive the transformation of the Honiara skyline and boost the local building and construction industry,” he said.

-SICCI Media