Minister of Water and Housing, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, broke ground for the construction of 130 serviced lots and 100 one-bedroom houses in Portmore Villas 2B, St. Catherine, on Thursday (September 25).
The construction of the serviced lots and houses, which are to be sold at average prices of $1.2 million and approximately $3 million, respectively, is a development project of the Housing Agency of Jamaica Limited (HAJ). The National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC) was rebranded as the HAJ a year ago.
An investment of approximately $550 million, the HAJ’s Managing Director, Joseph Shoucair, said that this was the third phase of the Portmore Villas project, which targets working people of modest means who have saved cash, or are able to access a National Housing Trust (NHT) benefit. Phase 1 involved the construction of 381 serviced lots, and phase 2(A), 206 serviced lots.
“Our housing lots will be fully serviced (with roads, water, electricity, sewerage and) on an average lot size of 3,000 square feet,” Mr. Shoucair said.
Minister of Water and Housing, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang (second right) and His Worship the Mayor of Portmore, Keith Hinds, (second left) break ground at the site of the new Portmore Villas Phase 2B housing development in St. Catherine, on Thursday, (September 24). Looking on are; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Genefa Hibbert (left), and Member of Parliament for South Central St. Catherine, Sharon Hay-Webster (right).
“The houses will be 370 square feet in area, and purchasers will be provided with expandable options which they can effect when their means permit. This development is a model that we intend to replicate islandwide, for we understand the need for moderately priced housing,” he explained.
Lamenting the unavailability of funds for large scale development of the area, he assured that the Agency would carry out incremental improvements, when possible.
“We understand the law and order implications of large unplanned communities living side by side with developed housing schemes, and we know we must assist the residents of these areas to improve the quality of their lives,” Mr. Shoucair acknowledged.
Dr. Chang said that the Ministry was working to improve the community’s sewage treatment plant.
“We have actually cleaned out the ponds and we are re-doing them, so that they become more efficient and can accommodate all the housing units in this sector.We are lining them, so that they will be far more efficient, and we’ll be able to maintain them more easily and you’ll get quality treatment of the waste water,” he assured residents.
The Minister said that he felt strongly about community facilities, which was a critical part of the planning process. He added that, when schemes are being developed, provisions should be made for community and commercial facilities, including shopping centres, doctors’ offices, churches and other social needs.
He noted that Portmore Villas 2B would have a small utility centre, which will be used as a community centre. He also indicated that though Portmore Villas 2B may be the final phase for Portmore, there are plans for housing developments in other areas of St. Catherine.
“The National Housing Trust has additional lands in the Twickenham Park area, which we will be expanding on. We also have Nesberry Grove, out in West Central St. Catherine, which is a big and growing area. We are, in addition to that, putting in the water infrastructure that will allow us to do more forward planning and putting in the additional houses for the plains of St. Catherine,” he projected.
His Worship the Mayor of Portmore, Keith Hinds, said that he was happy that the HAJ has decided to continue to make an input in Portmore.
“Two thirds of this municipality is a wonderful place. The other third needs a little brushing up, and this is what the HAJ has started to do in this community of Gregory Park,” he said.
Member of Parliament for South Central St. Catherine, Sharon Hay-Webster, said it was “good to see another set of solutions presented for working class people.”
Mrs. Hay-Webster suggested that there are other international partnerships that need to be built upon, in respect of providing housing solutions for Portmore.
She also pointed to the importance of providing organised space within which community activities can take place.
“If we do not provide room for organised activities for our young people, through sports, and personal development, we cannot address some of the other social issues that we need to,” she said.