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Minister of Water and Housing, Dr. Horace Chang, has said that while the Government would show zero tolerance to squatting, there would be a policy to increase shelter solutions across the island.
Dr. Chang, who was speaking at a meeting in Birmingham on October 2, said that about 30 per cent of the population lived in informal settlements or had no security of tenure. He said while the Government would be taking a hard line to stop squatting, it would also increase programmes, such as sites and services, starter homes, the formalising of some settlements and changing the law to make the issuing of titles easier.
The Minister was responding to questions about squatting and the cost of housing in Jamaica. He said part of the solution was about restoring credibility to the Ministry of Housing. He said people needed to know that the Ministry would work to develop shelter projects, but also that strong action would be taken if persons ‘captured’ property.
He said while some 10,000 to 15,000 new houses needed to be built each year to meet the island’s housing demands, far fewer were actually being built and this helps to fuel the high cost of housing.
The Minister, who gave a wide ranging presentation, also spoke of the negative impact of Tropical Storm Gustav on the island’s infrastructure and economy, and the concerns of Jamaicans, both at home and abroad, about the island’s crime rate.
“It’s (crime) a major issue and not something we have an easy answer for, but we are facing up to it,” he said, informing that in addition to ensuring adequate policing, the Government was also looking at social programmes, especially targeting young men.