PRB success stories – Board built estates to support small town growths – The Draiba Estate

The Draiba Public Rental Board Estate is home to 120 families. Picture: SUPPLIED

Located approximately 1.5km from Levuka Town and neighbour to Draiba Village is the 24 flat-Draiba Public Rental Board Estate. With a total population of approximately 120, the estate is daily managed by Keasi Kalou, the estate caretaker.

The Public Rental Board Housing Estate community officer Sitiveni Tabua said the caretaker was daily assisted by the estate committee comprised of prominent tenants within the estate.

Mr Tabua said 18 out of the 24 tenants worked for the local Pacific Fishing Company Ltd (PAFCO) while the others were retirees with four tenants employed at local businesses.

“The two retirees at the Draiba Estate are doing small business to support their daily expenses.” According to Mr Tabua one of the retirees said it was easier to live at the estate during one’s retirement years.

“You would pick a lemon or a breadfruit and no one will say a word to you. You can see someone pulling cassava and you ask for some and they will wholeheartedly give you. We are all family here,” said the retiree.

“I came to Levuka by chance as my early childhood upbringing from Waila, Nausori was very challenging.

“I started at PAFCO when I was 17 years old and have worked there for more than 30 years. All my life savings, I have invested in my son’s education who is now in NZ and supporting me.

“I am thankful to PRB for providing subsidised housing like this, otherwise I may have to struggle through my working years with my housing needs.”

Mr Tabua shared that there was not much rental housing option there and the cost to build a house was expensive because of transportation costs.

The caretaker, Mr Kalou, stated: “We have a diverse background of tenants here with most of them brought up from one of the islands in the Lomaiviti Province as they consider Levuka their hometown of choice to look for employment. He said some were locals had their villages on the other side of the Ovalau Island and since there were no bus service here, their weekly cost of transportation to town via daily carrier trucks was more expensive than their weekly rent here.

Sharing what Mr Kalou told him about the estate, Mr Tabua said the estate had provided some relief for the people.

According to Mr Kalou, the township of Levuka has a population of approximately 3000 people and is still serene and beautiful looking with its building designs a reflection of the early British Colonial settlers.

Special administrator Levuka, Joanne Rymell, said they had a lot of government workers and others who came to Levuka on work transfer from the mainland Viti Levu and were scrambling to find proper accommodation at Levuka.

Mr Kalou said a school on the island had 23 teachers with only three teachers’ quarters available increasing demand for housing on the island. PRB general manager Timoci Naleba said they were looking into the housing issues that existed in the upcoming urban areas.

Mr Naleba said they would only be able to confirm the exact demand after they conducted a housing survey.

According to Mr Naleba, those rural towns were unattractive for any private housing developer because the material transport cost was something they had to consider when they wanted to construct a building.

He said that would make a building more expensive and possibly still attract a low rental valuation compared with Suva when completed, meaning low return on investment. The current studio flats at Draiba has a weekly rent of $23 and $30 for a one-bedroom flat.

According to the PRB general manager this was probably not the type of rent any private housing developer will look forward to but the availability of housing is vital to the growth of any township, hence the need for PRB to include these housing issues for small township in their future plans.

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