JIS News

Minister of Water and Housing, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, says changes to the country’s strata legislation should help with establishing appropriate housing solutions for urban areas that need multi-family units.
The Registration (Strata Titles) Act, which makes provisions for the management and regulation of housing complexes and apartments, was debated and passed by the House of Representatives earlier this week.
However, Dr. Chang said that affordable financing is also needed to assist with this process. He assured that strategies are being devised for housing solutions in these urban areas, but the drive is not as aggressive as it could be, because of limited financing.
“We have to re-establish the credibility of our agencies in delivering low income housing, and therefore the emphasis is on 10,000 new solutions, and out of that we will begin, later in this financial year and early next year, to look at the more creative things that are required to solve some of the more deep inner-city problems,” Dr. Chang explained to journalists at a press conference, held at Jamaica House on October 29.
The briefing was held to highlight activities in the housing and water sectors that are on-going, and those that are to begin shortly.
Commenting on the squatter situation in the island, he said the Ministry and its agencies is convinced that if housing is provided for the average worker, it will begin to reduce the expansion of informal settlements.
“Which is why we are looking at serviced lots and starter units. Getting finance for that kind of operation is much easier, because the worker who earns $7,500 (weekly) at the hotel will buy himself a starter unit. On the other hand, the worker who has been occupying a house in an informal settlement for the last 20 years, with no roads, and no water doesn’t feel very happy paying for that lot at this point in time,” he said.
However, when the necessary infrastructure and amenities are put in place, the level of co-operation increases significantly, the Minister noted.
Dr. Chang said this is why it is important for the Ministry, in conjunction with the Housing Agency of Jamaica, the National Housing Trust (NHT), and other agencies, to re-establish credibility with the working class.
“That is critical to overcoming the informal settlement as well. That is why we have undertaken this massive programme. So far, it has been going very well,” the Minister noted.
The Ministry, in collaboration with the NHT and other relevant agencies, is seeking to deliver 10,000 housing units over three years. Most of the units will be delivered during 2010.
Meanwhile, Dr. Chang noted that the first half of the $1 billion in budgetary support from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) is to go toward the upgrading of brownfield areas on the North Coast this year. The remaining $500 million will be expended during the course of 2010.
Already, contractors are being sought for development works in the Shaw Park area of Ocho Rios, and work has begun at Lilliput and Providence Heights in St. James. Brownfield refers to a piece of industrial or commercial property that is abandoned or underused, especially one considered as a potential site for redevelopment.
“The $1 billion will not overcome the entire problem of squatting. We are looking at anywhere from 700,000 to one million of our population (squatting). We don’t have the capital to increase our rate of formalisation as we would like to, or take steps to relocate the few that may need relocation,” he pointed out, reiterating the importance of affordable housing for such persons.
In addition, the Government is about to close off on a US$72 million loan agreement with the Chinese government, to inject capital into the sector. He described the transaction as favourable, at two per cent interest over 25 years.
Dr. Chang said the Ministry has also sought to dispose of some assets in order to acquire the cash to expand its programmes, explaining that as the housing agency increases activity, there will be additional money to spend on social housing.

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