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Plans are being made for the expansion of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Land Administration and Management Programme (LAMP) outside of St. Catherine, where it currently operates.This is in an effort to assist the holders of unregistered lands in other parishes to formalize ownership of their properties.
Activities are being developed in this regard, and when finalized, should see more landowners not now in possession of a registered title, benefitting from LAMP’s assistance in securing this vital document.The Programme was established in April 2000 as a pilot project in
St. Catherine, jointly-funded by the Government of Jamaica and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Its primary aim is to support the government’s efforts in facilitating accessibility to land by eligible stakeholders, and promoting efficient use of the resource in a fair and transparent manner.
A $164.4 million provision was allocated to the agency in the 2007/08 budget to undertake land registration activities during the period following expiration of the GoJ/Inter-American Development Bank loan agreement in February 2007. At that time, Cabinet took a decision to establish LAMP as a unit of the Ministry to facilitate continuation of its activities.
Project Director for LAMP, Gloria Brown explains that the decision to establish LAMP resonated out of recognition by the relevant authorities of the day of the need to formalize ownership of a significant number of properties which were not registered.”It was recognized early that of the 750,000 parcels of land reflected on the land valuation roll, at least 350,000 parcels were unregistered. It was with this in mind that LAMP was contracted to assist individuals in securing titles,” Ms. Brown explained.
The LAMP executive said that St. Catherine was chosen as the pilot project area, primarily because of the number of unregistered parcels of land that existed, and the many communities that were “right for development”. She points that of some 30,000 parcels of land on which LAMP conducted surveys in the parish, 11,000 were unregistered. She notes however, that a significant number of these holders have moved to formalize ownership.
“Of the unregistered parcels that we surveyed, more than 60 per cent of those persons have come forward for titles. We have over 8,000 clients (for whom) LAMP has opened files, and these (files) are at various stages of processing. But our track record shows that we are on the right path, in that over 88 per cent of our applications for first registration, which we have lodged with the Office of Titles, have been successful, compared with a 20 to 30 per cent average at the national level,” Ms. Brown explains.
She says the 2007/08 fiscal year saw the agency filing a significant number of title applications with the titles office, facilitated in great part by the availability cadastral maps, which they had been awaiting for some time.
The agency’s over 8,000 clients includes some 95 farmers who are part of an initiative being undertaken by the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) in the community of Colbeck, incorporating LAMP’s services. The project, which commenced early in the 2007/08 fiscal year, entails securing titles for the farmers benefitting from the Commission’s irrigation works in the South West St. Catherine community.
“Initially, under the NIC/IDB contractual agreement, there was need for 80 per cent titling for all irrigation (assisted) farmers, but that condition has been taken out of the loan agreement. But the NIC still sees the need to empower the farmers with registered titles, hence the Commission has contracted the services of LAMP to assist in securing titles for the farmers,” Ms. Brown informs. She adds that LAMP’s overall work in St. Catherine is expected to be completed by December 2008.Other agencies, with which LAMP has worked, Ms. Brown says, include the National Housing Trust (NHT), for which the Programme conducted an audit of the NHT’s clients’ certificates of compliance, under the Facilities of Titles Act. This was aimed at advising the Trust on how best to proceed in converting those certificates to registered titles.
“That exercise has not been completed, and we are still in dialogue with the NHT to see how best we can assist them. In addition, we are in dialogue with the PC (People’s Cooperative) Banks as well to see how best we can assist them in their undertakings,” she informs.
Regarding LAMP’s activities in other parishes, Ms. Brown advises that the agency expects to commence surveying of unregistered properties in St. Thomas shortly. Preparatory work is to be undertaken in order to conduct surveys on those properties for which the owners have no survey plans, which are required for registration. She adds, however, that some landowners have already secured their plans.
“What we are doing now (is) we are interviewing persons who already have survey diagrams and we are assisting them in getting titles while we await the larger land surveying component of the programme (in St. Thomas),” the LAMP executive states.
Ms. Brown says LAMP is also looking at undertaking work in Clarendon. “We just got the study (on the parish), so we now need to interpret it and determine which areas we are going to be dealing with,” she says.In its bid to regularize informal holdings on land, Ms. Brown says the agency is seeking to make the process a smooth one for their clients by employing the necessary measures to this end.
“What LAMP has recognized is that there are major difficulties (experienced by applicants) in securing registered titles for properties. We are recognizing that having completed all (of) the relevant documents needed for registration, and having secured the survey diagram or the cadastral map, it is taking about three months from the date of lodgment of the application in (the) Titles Office to the date when the tile is produced. And because of that, we have initiated a special legislation to assist individuals in overcoming some of the barriers to registration. The main barriers we identified are cost, establishing root of title, and the problem of subdivision,” Ms. Brown outlines.
She says that in order to deal with these challenges, the Registration of Titles Cadastral Mapping and Tenure Certification Special Provisions Act, was passed in Parliament.
“This eliminated the requirement for the payment of transfer tax and stamp duty on all documents related to first registration, and made fees payable to the National Land Agency. All fees payable to the National Land Agency, under LAMP, are now based on tax roll value,” Ms. Brown advises. Additionally, provisions have been made under the Act for cadastral mapping, which will facilitate surveys of properties in an entire community on one map, despite these having different owners.
The Programme also collaborates with several agencies involved in the registration process to make it simpler for clients. These include the parish council, in the case of St. Catherine, and this will be the case in other parishes; the NLA and its Land Valuation Division; the courts, and the Titles Office.
“We rely on the parish council in relation to the subdivisions, advising us on properties that might be marginal, and whether or not we should “title” a property. All surveys done by LAMP are done through the surveying division of the National Land Agency (and their) Land Valuation Division in relation to the tax roll. And, of course, the Office of Titles because they are the ones who must process all applications for titles,” Ms. Brown informs.
She says that the input of these organizations go a far way in enabling LAMP to execute on its mandate, which she points out also incorporates probating and administering wills and estates, subdivision of properties, and facilitating loans for development, adding that “whatever it takes, we will do in order to bring persons up to speed with a registered or current title.”
An issue of concern, Ms. Brown notes, was the ad hoc manner in which land was being transacted in some instances, which she stresses could compromise the registration process..
“We realize that individuals cannot continue to deal with land where you sell a little piece here (and), and little piece there. Because, what we are recognizing (is) that individuals are not only dealing with land informally, lands that are unregistered, that is. But they are also dealing with portions of registered lands, informally, and that has serious implications for the entire registration process. We are seeing the need for a special education programme, so we intend to deal with that specifically,” she informed.
With a staff complement of 30, inclusive of seven attorneys and some 14 paralegals and administrative staff, Ms. Brown said LAMP would be forging ahead with its mandate, with particular emphasis being placed on formalizing unregistered land holdings.
“It is a major concern that nearly 50 per cent of landowners do not have titles. And if we are going to achieve our 2030 goal (of first world status), then we must bring more properties into the formal systems so that individuals can turn these vast land holdings into capital, and be able to benefit from them,” she points out.
Additionally, Ms. Brown says that LAMP will be lobbying for the strengthening of the institutions involved in the titling process as well as proposing that major parts of the island be declared LAMP areas to facilitate landowners benefitting from the Special Provisions Act.