The Ministry of Labour and Social Security has signed a partnership agreement with Food for the Poor (FFP) Jamaica, to provide social housing, valued at $20 million, for families who are beneficiaries of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).
This programme will specifically target PATH households that are not able to provide suitable housing for themselves, due to socio-economic conditions.
The housing project will be implemented over one year and will provide some 150 families with one and two bedroom units, consisting of sanitary facilities and kitchenette.
Speaking at the signing, which took place at the Ministry’s downtown Kingston offices, on May 17, portfolio Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, pointed out that, “this partnership is a reflection of our mandate to not only balance the budget, but also to see how the state can assist families to balance their lives."
Mr. Kellier noted that the concept of social housing is central to the development of any comprehensive protection system, as social shelter is a critical element of social justice. “This pilot is a move to ensure that the state fulfills its role in the social contract,” he added.
The Minister explained that access for this support will be facilitated through the Ministry’s 13 parish offices, and households selected will be identified by social workers, who will be responsible for building detailed case files for families that are to be supported. These will be submitted to parish appeal committees, which will make the final determination.
He noted that the committees have been assisting the Ministry over the past 10 years in arbitrating PATH benefits to households that have not been selected through the computer-based system. The committees comprise representatives from community based organisations, faith-based organisations, parish councils, and other parish based institutions.
“This intervention will provide the Ministry with valuable information for the design and implementation of a comprehensive social housing policy. As such, the pilot will assess possible delivery mechanisms for social housing; review strategies for client selection; and examine methods to assist with land tenure and land acquisition issues for the poor,” the Minister outlined.
He said that for persons to be eligible, there must be “clear access” to land for construction of the housing units.
“The Ministry is aware of the peculiarities of the land tenure issue in Jamaica, and will assist clients in their acquisition of permission, and the assistance will be in the form of referral services. We also take the opportunity to ask well thinking Jamaicans to support this effort, by giving access to small parcels of land to assist individuals who are in need of social housing,” he urged.
Mr. Kellier welcomed the partnership with FFP, pointing out that this is an example of how public/private partnership can create greater efficiency in service delivery, as FFP had discounted the total cost of the units by 30 per cent, while also providing labour free of cost. The cost for the foundation of the houses will be absorbed by the Ministry.
In his remarks, Chairman of FFP, Jamaica, Andrew Mahfood, said the collaboration would allow FFP to continue with its mandate of providing social housing solutions for poor and vulnerable groups in the society.
He noted that since inception, FFP has helped over 22,000 Jamaicans to have a secure and comfortable place to live, with some 1,298 houses built for fire victims and other distressed families in 2011 alone.
There are some 130,000 families comprising 399,123 persons registered with PATH. Some 77 per cent of these persons are children up to 19 years.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Senior Reporter