Squatter Management Unit Being Strengthened


The Squatter Management Unit in the Ministry of Water and Housing is being strengthened, portfolio Minister, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, has announced.
In his Sectoral Debate presentation on July 1, in the House of Representatives, Dr. Chang said the Unit is being restructured, pointing out that this will incorporate an increase in the current staff complement of three. The restructuring, he added, will also include the establishment of an operational arm, to deal with enforcement and containment.
Alluding to a study spearheaded by the Unit, which revealed that approximately 25 per cent of Jamaica’s population currently squat on land not owned by them, Dr. Chang contended that “it should not be surprising that the existing Squatter Management Unit does not have the capacity to address this chronic problem in a meaningful way.”
The Minister advised the House that money received from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), will be used to effect the restructuring exercise, “which should be completed within this quarter.”
“Even with the restructuring of the Unit, given the magnitude of the problem, a collective approach will have to be adopted. The Squatter Management Unit has, over the past months, been laying the foundation for this approach, targeting Parish Councils and other key Government agencies. But we need public support on an issue which is critical to restoring a sense of order in the society,” he emphasised.
Meanwhile, Dr. Chang announced that the Ministry will undertake upgrading works on several informal settlements islandwide.
“We have had some funding from the Tourism Enhancement Fund and we are discussing with the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the approach that will ensure we put in place the basic infrastructure – roads, water and drains. We will retain the properties, under the Housing Act, to ensure that we can continue the development in the future, but get the approval of NEPA, so that individuals can use their titles to leverage and improve their homes in their own time,” he informed.
The Minister said that a Ministry team is currently discussing the acquisition of additional funding to that provided by the TEF, which would be “confined to the north coast.” He added that based on the urgency of the housing needs, the Ministry has proceeded with work in areas such as Mammee Bay St. Ann and Providence, in St. James.
He pointed out that work will commence at Shaw Park in St. Ann, and Lilliput and Norwood in St. James with funds provided by the TEF. “We are now in the planning phase for areas, such as Retirement, Roaring River, and Buckshaven in Clarendon,” the Minister said.
Regarding the Squatter Management Unit, Dr. Chang said that it will continue its work on the policy aspects of the programme. This, he outlined, will include completion of the review of the existing Guidelines for Dealing with Informal Settlements, as well as a review of the Trespass Act, in conjunction with the Justice Ministry.

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