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Minister of Water and Housing, Dr. Horace Chang, has said that measures are ongoing to address the issue of informal settlements or squatting across the country.
Speaking in the House of Representatives yesterday (Sept. 9), Dr. Chang informed that teams were established, to give accurate data in an effort to understand the number of cases of informal settlements in the island.
“We are currently doing two things that will give an accurate data of the informal settlements, which should be completed in October, and that will give accurate, up to date data. The last survey done in 2003 by the University of Technology (UTech), identified just under 700 schemes, many of them have expanded, and as such the data in October will give a more accurate picture of the numbers,” he said.
In addition to that, he said, a joint team from the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Technology UTech, is also being established to provide a comprehensive housing policy. He noted that the scope of work will entail examination of the number of persons currently squatting, as well as the market demands for housing, current land use patterns, and a comprehensive picture of what is required.
“That will take a little longer to complete, as it will give a more comprehensive picture of what is required and should be ready in the middle of the next financial year,” he said, noting that the work has commenced, and is expected to provide baseline data, on which to provide the kind of policy required to correct the problem of squatting.
Dr. Chang also noted that a number of propositions are being explored, and that, as such, the issue of changing the legislative framework, is crucial to home-ownership.
“Titling is a sure symbol of ownership (and) is a requital part of creating an ethics of home ownership, in transforming the character of informal settlements,” he said.
The Minister disclosed that in some areas campaigns are being undertaken to “aggressively pursuing a programme of titling them,” adding that in some areas, such as sections of Western St. Andrew, properties are actually being sold, and where a minimal portion of payment is still owed, will be given titles.
“I have written off all of those schemes, which are over 15 years old, and people owing less than $5,000. So I think that there (are) about 5,000 titles, which are ready and are to be delivered to the home owners,” he said, adding that this will occur in all constituencies.
“It is our mission to provide titling and make it easier for people to own their real estate,” he said.
He also noted that in the urban areas, where there are high-rise buildings which are currently “giving us problems. We not only are going to provide titles, but we have to get the strata law upgraded, because the management of these high-rise multi family complexes is critical and we have to do high-rise multi-family complexes to accommodate the population in the Corporate Area,” he said.
The Housing Minister also noted that the urban Corporate Area will be redeveloped, to accommodate quality housing for all, adding that the situation will not be solved overnight but if “we combine our efforts and wills, we will find a way,” he said.