The Ministry of Water and Housing has received the final draft of a housing policy document from a group of experts, who were hired to formulate the document, last year.
Minister of Water and Housing, Hon. Dr. Horace (right), having a light discussion with Chairman of the Construction Industry Council (CIC), Gentle Wallace, at the Council’s 50th anniversary banquet, held on July 10 at the Morgan’s Harbor Hotel, in Port Royal. Minister Chang was the guest speaker at the event.
This was announced by Minister of Water and Housing, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, who was speaking at the 50th anniversary dinner and awards ceremony of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) of Jamaica, at the Morgan’s Harbour Hotel, in Port Royal, on July 10.
“We are finally on the verge of putting in place a National Housing Policy, to bring order and cohesiveness to the sector. The Ministry is in possession of the final draft of the document, which will be considered by the Cabinet shortly and then tabled in Parliament,” Dr. Chang said.
The Minister pointed out that the policy has embraced a number of new and innovative approaches to construction, while reiterating that the construction sector will play a key role in the implementation of the housing policy.
Dr. Chang said that the policy embraces, among other things, the application of technological innovations to all aspects of the building industry; an expansion of the facilities within existing tertiary institutions to accelerate the skills training and capacity building of construction workers to enhance their productivity; and the use of low energy-consuming construction techniques and materials in all segments of the construction industry.
He added that the housing policy also addresses appropriate construction practices to mitigate the adverse effects of potential hazardous events and encourage the use of cheaper alternative building materials.
At the same time, the Housing Minister reminded his audience that the government was committed to working with players in the private sector, as it moves to serve the housing and construction needs of the population.
“I believe that we stand to benefit significantly from collaboration with private sector entities such as the CIC,” he told the members.
He singled out the work being done by one agency of the Ministry and the superiority of block and steel construction over other forms.
“The Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) is exploring the efficient use of block and steel technology. Although building systems have been widely used in Jamaica for more than 35 years, block and steel is still the preferred choice for the general population. While in the traditional approach, it is no match for system building, it provides the greatest stimulus to our construction industry and is the most effective way to boost sales of construction material,” Dr. Chang said.
And, while systems building is often thought to be a cheaper alternative, the Minister said there have been recent instances in which block and steel contractors are tendering on a competitive level and in some cases giving a better price.
“In fact, for projects with less than 150 units, the efficient use of block and steel construction should prove effective and competitive when compared with system building as currently priced by our contractors,” he said.
“The HAJ is now delivering a 270 sq. ft. studio unit on 3000 square feet of land with full infrastructure constructed from six-inch reinforced concrete blocks and a timber frame, aluminum sheet covered roof at Luana, in St. Elizabeth, for $2.5 million. The project has 49 units and will be completed in September 2010,” Dr. Chang said.
He said the HAJ is also now in the process of constructing 100 similarly finished units with a reinforced concrete roof at Portmore Villas in Portmore, for a selling price of $3 million. He noted that both projects have been sold out and that construction is way ahead of the schedule dates given for completion.
The housing policy was crafted by a group of experts from the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology, following the signing of a $21.6 million contract with the Ministry of Water and Housing to formulate a National Housing Policy and Implementation plan, on June 17, 2008.