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Chang fears for Dunbeholden housing depositors

Sunday, March 16, 2014    

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JAMAICA Labour Party spokesman on housing Dr Horace Chang has singled out depositors of the Dunbeholden housing project in St Catherine for protection and wants to know from Minister of Housing Dr Omar Davies when he will deliver their housing units.

Dr Chang was reacting to the management and board upheaval revealed at the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) last week, which led to the dismissal of the entire board of directors, chaired by People's National Party activist Maureen Webber.

Dr Chang insisted that political interference has delayed delivery, despite the use of an innovative model structured to deliver cost-effective housing units, in light of Government's funding constraints.

"This project was primarily aimed at ensuring access to affordable housing, using

a key public private partnership model. In fact, we crafted this model in 2011 because we recognised that during the challenging economic times caused by the recession, the Government would have been unable to provide units on its own initiative. As challenging times continue, the Government should have fostered the model in order to protect depositors," Dr Chang said in a statement issued yesterday.

He went on to note that what has instead happened is a "gross interference" with the model.

"I am advised that Government representatives have insisted on assignment of political contractors which has interfered in the private investor's management of the project and pushed up the price of the project. Government's interference has therefore made it infeasible for the investors to deliver completed units at the projected $3.5 million.

"Forced use of politically connected contractors has caused the closing price for units to now be closer to $5 million," he said, adding that, even more troubling to him is that nothing has happened on the project's site.

"These units should have already been started in order to be delivered in March 2014. Instead, there is nothing on spot. If you take a quick look at the HAJ Facebook page, it is clearly demonstrated by observations logged there how discontented people are with the delivery of the project.

"We left within the ministry, and specifically with the management of the HAJ, an agreement on an excellent project capable of delivering affordable homes to people, with a new project model, allowing both the Government and private investors to partner to meet a clear national need. It is truly distressing that it has been interfered with in this way by old-style politics," he said.

Dr Chang said that it was important to remember that Jamaica needs to produce at least 10,000 housing units per year to address national housing needs, and that this project would have ensured, when completed, the provision of 1,500 affordable units.

He urged Davies to clean up the HAJ.

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