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The National Housing Trust (NHT) has committed more than $37.8 million towards the national squatter survey.
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, with responsibility for Works, Hon. Everald Warmington, made the disclosure during his contribution to the 2022/23 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 11.
He noted that the initial budget of $37 million was insufficient to complete the survey, and the Squatter Management Unit (SMU) requested an additional sum from the NHT.
The National Squatter Survey aims to support the classification of squatter settlements in tiers to better assist in planning; establish a geodatabase using settlement boundary and household data; and inform the National Squatter Management Policy and Implementation Plan.
The Minister noted that the collection of household and other data relating to squatter settlements across the island commenced in July 2019 and encountered several unforeseen challenges ranging from administrative glitches, adverse weather conditions and COVID-19.
Nonetheless, the SMU has surveyed 269 settlements in eight parishes, namely Clarendon (70), Manchester (3), St. Ann (40), Trelawny (26), Hanover (43), St. Mary (29), Portland (31) and St. Elizabeth (27).
Mr. Warmington said the total number of people living in these settlements is estimated to be more than 83,000.
“To date, the database is fully populated based on the existing settlement data and provides detailed information on the 269 squatter settlements and will be useful in assisting Jamaica in dealing with squatting issues,” he noted.
The database contains a wide range of information relating to demographics, housing condition, access to services and utilities, proximity to hazards, and environmental features.
Meanwhile, the SMU is working on a National Squatter Management Policy and Implementation Plan with the overarching goal of facilitating the gradual reduction and eventual elimination of all forms of squatting throughout Jamaica.
“The policy aims to promote the optimal use of land and land resources, meet the need for shelter and other uses in a structured, coordinated, and sustainable manner, and respond to the diverse needs of society’s most vulnerable members,” Mr. Warmington said.
Consultations on the policy have taken place with seven groups, including the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, ministries, departments and agencies, municipal corporations and planning authorities, landowners (private and public), and legal and service providers.