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Handover of Bernard Lodge housing units faces delay

BY NADINE WILSON Observer staff reporter wilsonn@jamaicoabserver.com

Tuesday, February 25, 2014    

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PROSPECTIVE homeowners who made deposits on units in the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) Bernard Lodge Estate housing development in St Catherine will have to wait until June, at least, to start receiving their keys, despite an earlier promise that the first two phases would be handed over by March of this year.

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr Morais Guy, said that changes made to the plans outlining the configuration of the storm-water drainage for the development resulted in a change to the timeline for handing over.

"The contemplation was, as it relates to storm-water drainage, for that to run across Highway 2000 and that we would have been able to negotiate an agreement with TransJamaican Highway to allow us to put a huge drain across there to allow for storm-water drainage. This particular proposal that was contemplated initially and was part of the project, for want of a better word, was not acceptable to TransJamaican Highway in that it would have caused them to delay traffic on the highway," he said.

The Bernard Lodge Estate (BLE) housing development will be built on 263 acres of land left over from the construction of Highway 2000. Hundreds of Jamaicans had flocked the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre last June for a two-day registration period to apply for the 1,584 starter units projected for the development, comprising 980 studios and 604 one bedrooms.

Following this application process, the agency had announced that 675 applicants, including more than 300 public sector workers and individuals with disabilities, had been successful for the first two phases. A downpayment of $400,000 for the $4-million studio units and $490,000 for the $4.9 million one-bedroom units was then collected by the agency from successful applicants.

"In phase one we have a total of 350 units and have collected deposits on 321, and in phase two a total of 375 and we have collected deposits on 371. Phase two is the first one that is going to be built," Dr Guy explained.

He said the National Works Agency had revisited the previous plans for the storm-water drainage and has since come up with a new design that has been approved by the National Environment and Planning Agency. Although the overseas-based Malphrus International are the contractors for the development, Dr Guy noted that a local sub-contractor is in the process of building the units off-site.

"We hope that the first sets of units will be on the ground by June the latest, so we are basically running about two to three months behind schedule," he said.

The agency had promised that phases three to five would be completed by mid-2016. Each of the studio units for the five phases will measure 267 square feet and one-bedroom units will be 370 square feet. All of the units will be outfitted with laminate countertops, stainless steel kitchen sinks, UPVC French windows and slab roofs.

"As soon as the infrastructure gets into place -- that is, the road, the water, the electricity and the sewerage -- we won't have a challenge in terms of just putting the rest of the houses in the respective phases. I do not anticipate any delay in the other phases," he pointed out.

Meanwhile, the minister said that the agency is currently awaiting funding from the National Housing Trust to put in well-needed infrastructure in sections of Bourkesfield, Old Harbour. Some of the residents have been having difficulties getting their plans approved by the St Catherine Parish Council because of the lack of the necessary infrastructure.

"There needs to be some road infrastructure done, some bushing done, some gullies cleaned and also for the sewerage system to be properly tied in from the laterals to the respective houses, to the sewage treatment plant," Dr Guy said.

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