MONTEGO BAY — Minister of Water and Housing, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, on April 7, broke ground for Phase 2 of the Flanker Infrastructure Development Works, to be carried out by the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ), at a cost of approximately $158 million.
The upgrading of the physical infrastructure in the informal areas of Flanker and adjoining communities in St. James, will impact some 405 lots and many families. The works will include construction of new roads, rehabilitation of existing roads and footpaths, installation of curbs and channels, a storm water drainage system, water supply and lights, and the building of retaining walls.
At the end of the upgrading works, the police will have free access to the households in the communities, thereby empowering them to restore law and order. Proper lighting throughout these communities will also deter criminal activities. Proper sanitation and the provision of basic needs, such as water supply, should lift the morale of the residents, relieve social pressure and improve the attitudes of the community members.
Phase 2 of the project is a continuation of the first phase, which was completed in 2009 at a cost of $190 million. It provided the necessary infrastructure upgrade to 300 lots, transforming the Flanker community and the lives of some 300 families.
Addressing residents at the ceremony, Dr. Chang emphasised that informal settlements which have arisen out of the attempts by low-income households to solve their shelter needs, would not be allowed to continue.
“Informal settlements threaten many of our environmentally sensitive areas, such as aquifers and wetlands as well as other water bodies, because in many instances, there is little or no provision for proper sewage and garbage disposal. It is now almost a given that during the annual rainy season, settlements that are built along hillsides and along the banks of gullies will be the site of disasters where the cost is not only monetary, but also human lives,” the Minister said.
Dr. Chang said that no discussion on the cost associated with informal settlements could be complete if the issue of crime was not raised, as it was one of the most devastating elements, impacting very negatively on the human factor.
“The high density of many of these settlements, and the ad hoc manner in which they are laid out, make them extremely difficult to police. It is therefore not surprising that many of them are awash with criminal activities and are a major source of concern for law enforcement agencies. The solution therefore is a two-pronged approach, one of which is settlement upgrading and the other is an extensive housing programme, geared at significantly increasing the number of available housing solutions,” the Minister explained.
“In this regard, we are actively exploring the possibility of incremental development which is critical to solving the challenges associated with the affordability of solutions. Experience has taught us that if we are able to provide affordable starter units, persons will, over time, significantly improve these units,” he added.
The Minister, who is also Member of Parliament for the area, said the infrastructure development works in Flanker and adjoining communities should result in adequate housing solutions for low income earners and no further expansion of existing informal settlements.
Also attending the ceremony were: Custos of St. James, Hon. Ewen Corrodus, and Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Charles Sinclair.
By GLENIS ROSE, JIS Reporter