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Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, says the Government is determined to tackle the issue of squatting in a comprehensive way.

Dr. Guy, who has responsibility for housing, was making his Sectoral presentation in the House on July 10.

The Minister said he would be strengthening the capacity of the staff within the Squatter Management Unit (SMU), “to better undertake the tasks at hand."

He said that despite the fiscal situation, the Ministry will expand the unit “to reflect a more regional operational outfit, so as to facilitate greater direct involvement in the prevention and containment of squatting, particularly on public lands."

Dr. Guy said he would be seeking to address ways to obtain the support of the different Ministries under which various pieces of legislation exist, that can be applied to address issues related to squatting.

He noted too, that the Ministry would be giving consideration to enacting a Modern Trespass Act this year. "The current Act was drafted in 1851 and it is the thinking that a Modern Trespass Act will take into account both urban and rural environment, with focus on public and private trespass,” he said.

"Squatting remains one of our biggest social challenges with a staggering 15 to 35 per cent of Jamaicans estimated to be living in squatter settlements or abandoned buildings, which lack basic infrastructure, such as water or sanitation,” the Minister told the House.

He pointed out that a rapid assessment of squatting undertaken by the SMU in 2008, identified over 700 settlements accommodating an estimated 20 per cent of the country’s population.

The assessment also revealed three types of squatting in Jamaica: agricultural, residential, which was the most dominant, and commercial, the Minister said.

 

By Andrea Braham