- The dream of owning their own home is one of the most important life goals for many Jamaicans.
- Helping Jamaicans realise that important home ownership dream is an important policy objective of government. The Sugar Barracks Relocation Programme is one of the ways in which the Government is doing so.
- Prime Minister Simpson Miller, a champion for the poor, has fully supported and led the programme that is providing houses free of cost to the sugar workers and their families who have long been living in substandard housing conditions on sugar estates in the parishes of Trelawny, Westmoreland, Clarendon and St. Thomas.
The dream of owning their own home is one of the most important life goals for many Jamaicans. Helping Jamaicans realise that important home ownership dream is an important policy objective of government. The Sugar Barracks Relocation Programme is one of the ways in which the Government is doing so. This initiative is also in alignment with the Government’s poverty reduction and alleviation mandate to improve the conditions of the most vulnerable Jamaicans, and as often stated by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, to help in balancing people’s lives.
Prime Minister Simpson Miller, a champion for the poor, has fully supported and led the programme that is providing houses free of cost to the sugar workers and their families who have long been living in substandard housing conditions on sugar estates in the parishes of Trelawny, Westmoreland, Clarendon and St. Thomas.
“The building of modern housing, infrastructure and amenities for sugar workers is one of the most satisfying and heart-warming programmes that I have presided over, in my political career”, the Prime Minister said. Mrs. Simpson Miller added that the Sugar Barracks Relocation Programme was conceived as an important poverty reduction strategy for the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of eradicating poverty and hunger. “As part of our socio-economic policy framework, we must ensure that resources are mobilised to communities so that Jamaicans are given a fair chance at improving their living conditions,” the Prime Minister said.
Funded by the European Union with support from the Government of Jamaica and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries through the Sugar Transformation Unit, the Sugar Barracks Relocation Programme is providing 397 housing solutions to 876 persons. To date, 181 persons have benefitted from 84 housing solutions in Trelawny and Westmoreland. Some $524 million has been spent on infrastructure works and housing under the programme in these parishes comprising 4 housing developments, 3 in Westmoreland and 1 in Trelawny.
Petrona Richards, 39, who is a beneficiary of the programme in Trelawny received a 2-bedroom house, and was able to move her family from a derelict structure to a comfortable house. “The programme has changed my life and improved my living situation significantly,” says Ms Richards. I have been able to achieve what I never thought possible – a brand new home and I feel so good. This is something I would never have been able to acquire on my own. I am really grateful to the Government for giving me and my family this house,” she said.
Another beneficiary, Ercylyn Black, 60, the owner of a brand new 2-bedroom house in Westmoreland at the Barham relocation site is humbled and grateful for the assistance from the Government. Being the recipient of new home signifies a new start in life for her and the four members of her family. They have been able to reclaim their dignity after years of living in a run-down structure. “It’s been a wonderful feeling living in this new house. I am happy. I am proud. The EU and the Government have turned our lives around. I thank them from the bottom of my heart,” she said.
Now in its third year, the broad objective of the Sugar Barracks Relocation Programme is to provide social support to communities in Sugar Dependent Areas by removing persons from decrepit houses, referred to as ‘barracks’ and giving them brand new homes. According to Ambassador Paola Amadei, Head of Delegation for the European Union to Jamaica, these barracks were meant to be temporary houses for persons who worked on the sugar estates, and as temporary, basic structures they were limited in terms of access to amenities. She explained that overtime, with the transformation of the sugar sector, and the decline in sugar production, sugar workers along with their families remained in the houses permanently. These homes were therefore not maintained by the sugar estates and were left in significant disrepair.
Ambassador Amadei said the relocation project has been an important initiative to remedy this issue and reward the people and communities that contributed to the development of the sugar industry which was the lynch pin of the economy in Jamaica for many years. “I think the sugar barracks is a project that is bound to strike a chord with everybody. With this intervention, families can count on receiving good housing. It is making a big difference in their lives and provides them with new dignity. You can’t measure the change for the individual moving from a substandard situation with limited space and little or no facilities, to a brand new home with all the necessary facilities,” said Ambassador Amadei.
Meanwhile, Project Manager for the Sugar Transformation Unit, Keleen Young-Grandison who has witnessed the profound joy on the faces of the recipients, many of whom are quite senior and have lived in barracks all their lives is equally upbeat. “When I see the smile and tears of joy on their faces after they collect their keys, I am pleased to be a part of such a Programme that has transformed the lives of so many persons in a positive way. When you see where the residents used to live and where they reside now you can understand the joy. I am happy for them. They are now able to reap the rewards of their forefathers sweat and tears.”
The remaining 313 houses still to be handed over under the programme are for former residents of sugar estate barracks in St. Thomas and Clarendon. These are expected to be completed during 2015. The lands on which the houses are constructed are provided by SCJ Holdings Limited and titles are provided through Land Administration Management Programme (LAMP). The only cost beneficiaries are required to meet is a small fee to LAMP to acquire a Registered Title for the property.