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KINGSTON — The lives of some 103 residents of Jack's River, St. Mary, are expected to be significantly enhanced with the provision of titles and letters of possession for serviced lots in the Eden Park housing development by the Ministry of Housing, Environment and Water.

A total of 126 lots have been developed, of which 103 have already been sold by the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ), which spearheaded the development.

Titles and letters of commitment were presented to approximately 10 recipients on Friday (July 29), during a brief handing over ceremony organised by the Ministry and the HAJ at the Eden Park Sports Complex.

The Eden Park project involves the development of 17.8 hectares of land south of Oracabessa and south west of St. Mary's capital, Port Maria. Approximately $118 million has, to date, been spent on the project by the HAJ, to include construction of roadways, water supply system, and storm drainage network. A further $6 million is to be spent to provide electricity, work on which is expected to commence shortly.

Speaking at the ceremony, Dr. Chang underscored the importance of owning a land title, describing it as "wealth" which is "better than money in the bank".

"Money in the bank goes down (in value), no matter how much interest they give you, but the one thing that does not go down in value is land. What it was worth 10 years ago, whatever the value, it is 10 times that today," he stated.

He said that as a Government, "we have to…ensure that Jamaicans can…own a little piece of (land) that they can call their own, and that they can have their titles so that they can (build and) live in their homes with security, knowing that 'this is my castle'."

He urged the beneficiaries to "treat your community well, treat it with respect, and make sure it is one that you are proud of."

In his remarks, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, and Member of Parliament for Western St. Mary, Hon. Robert Montague, said he was delighted that a number of the residents were finally getting a chance to formally own land.

"Today is a day where the future and wealth of your family is beginning to grow. The foundation of wealth is land, and too many of us in St. Mary, we have land, but what we have is 'dead lef' land and family land, and we really don't have your name written on a title. So the persons, here today, who are going to benefit, will have their names written into the book of titles," he stated.

Mr. Montague advised the new landowners to form a citizens association to address community matters, stressing that "it's your community now; you, now, have to take charge and take responsibility".

He also encouraged them to fulfill their statutory obligations by paying their property taxes, as well as consulting with the St. Mary Parish Council when engaging in construction to ensure that their building plans meet the required standards.

Managing Director of the HAJ, Joseph Shoucair, assured that the electricity infrastructure will be installed in the short order.

"We did not put in the electricity (before) simply because, when you put in electrical wires in a scheme where people don't live (as yet), in no time, the electrical wires disappear. So we have waited, but you will see it shortly, and you will have proper electricity service, a proper water supply, and a complete development," Mr. Shoucair said.

By Douglas McIntosh