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Minister of Water and Housing, Dr. Horace Chang, says the Ministry will be carrying out greater scrutiny of future joint venture housing projects to ensure that the country benefits fairly in agreements forged with partners.
“We expect people in joint ventures to deliver and we have to ensure that the quality expected is maintained,” Minister Chang stated. He further advised that the Ministry had revised the policy (Public Private Sector Joint Venture Policy) and is currently looking at how to ensure legal recourse. “If we have to take them to court then we take them to court,” Dr. Chang said.
The Minister made this disclosure on January 7, following a tour of Cedar Grove, a 800-unit joint venture housing development project, which he said was a good concept but the management of the venture had gone badly, leaving behind problems which the Ministry is hoping to have addressed.
“Joint ventures were brought in to use the private sector capacity to deliver houses of better quality and more efficiently, since the Ministry was thought to be too involved politically, the fact is that they have all failed, except for one or two established contractors. We certainly hope to reverse that in future joint venture developments but in this case we have a problem, which we are looking at to see if we can bring about a solution,” he told JIS News.
He noted that part of the responsibility of the Ministry is the transfer of titles and if the work was not satisfactory carried out titles should not have been given to purchasers. “None of these titles should have been transferred until the quality work is assured and when individuals come for their title they are told they cannot get it until the contractor does certain things so they go back to the contractor who is legally liable to do the work properly. We allow profit margin but what we are getting is a rip off of the beneficiaries,” he said.
The Minister further added that public information and interaction was critical and that community and political leaders must take a more proactive role in ensuring that quality is maintained for the good of all.
Minister Chang and his touring party, which included Mayor of Portmore, Keith Hinds, Member of Parliament for South Central St. Catherine, Sharon Haye-Webster, Mayor of Spanish Town Dr. Andrew Wheatley, who is also Councillor in the Portmore Division, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Genefa Hibbert, Councillor for the Gregory Park Division, Camille Buchanan, and technical staff from the Ministry, also visited Portmore Villas Phase 2A lots, which have already been sold, and 2B, which will commence with ‘starter homes’ and one-bedroom units, which will go to market by March of this year. Both schemes in total comprise over 450 affordable housing solutions. Portmore Villas Phase One has already been completed.
The contract for new Phases 2A and 2B include the upgrading of the existing sewage plant to ensure that there is adequate wastewater disposal in the area.
Mrs. Haye-Webster, Mr. Hinds and Ms. Buchanan said they were pleased that the Minister decided to take this tough stand, as the public needed to be protected. Mrs. Haye-Webster said the challenges were numerous but that she was happy that the Minister took the time to see for himself and that she was looking forward to the new policy directives.
The Minister’s party toured Palms of Portmore, Westmeade, Spanish Village, and Fraser’s Content.