JIS News

A report on squatting, focusing on public health, safety, environmental protection and security of the persons involved, as well as prospective solutions, is to be made available to the Minister of Water and Housing, Dr. Horace Chang, to ensure that the issue is properly addressed.
The Minister said he shared concerns about persons building houses in river beds and on hillsides, particularly in watershed areas, and emphasised that the Government’s decision to classify certain areas as ‘no build zones’, would help to arrest such detrimental practices.
Dr. Chang was addressing a JIS ‘Think Tank’, held recently at the agency’s headquarters in Kingston.
Solutions being looked at, he advised, included identification of alternative sites and relocation; construction of low cost affordable units and formalising ownership, where appropriate; surveillance by wardens; and speedy and decisive action against illegal housing.
“We are in the process of identifying those areas along the North Coast, where major developments are taking place and where we are therefore likely to have an influx of workers. Through the National Housing Development Corporation, in conjunction with the National Housing Trust, and in partnership with the private sector, we will be building a range of affordable solutions to meet the demand and prevent further expansion of the informal settlements,” Dr. Chang said.
The Minister’s determination to develop solutions for informal housing settlements was evident earlier this year, during his presentation in the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate, in the House of Representatives, when he cited informal settlements or squatting as, “the single biggest social challenge that we now face in this country and the cause of great social dysfunction.”
“Statistics indicate that there are some 700 informal settlements across the island, which are homes to a possible 15 to 35 per cent of the population,” he pointed out.
Efforts to address the problem of informal settlements, the Minister pointed out, “are being done as an inter-agency collaboration with the National Land Agency, the Forestry Department, the National Housing Trust, the National Housing Development Corporation, the Department of Local Government, the Planning Institute of Jamaica and the Spatial Data Management Division, within the Office of the Prime Minister.”

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