OPERATION Pride — the controversial programme to upgrade squatter settlements under the previous Government — drained the treasury of more than $7 billion, managing director of the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) Joseph Shoucair revealed yesterday.
The subsidy to the struggling entity was more than $7 billion. "That was the loss to the state of Operation Pride," said Shoucair.
The HAJ, formerly the National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC), which was formed following the merger of three state entities, including Operation Pride, is moving to turn financial fortunes around by aggressively developing new housing solutions for low- and middle-income persons.
"What we have tried to do in these past three years is to develop as many projects as possible using the lands we have," Shoucair told the Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's head office in Kingston.
Prior to 2007, the then NHDC focused on upgrading squatter settlements and developing new housing schemes, but the costs were out of the reach of most beneficiaries.
"Many of these projects were not feasible economically because recipients of housing benefits could not generally afford the economic cost of those units so there was a heavy state subsidy," the HAJ managing director said.
With the change of government in 2007, a decision was taken to "halt the bleeding" by pursuing new developments and then pumping some of the proceeds back into Operation Pride.
These include small developments, such as Portmore Villas in St Catherine and Luana in St Elizabeth, as well as the much larger developments in St Ann, St Elizabeth and St Catherine for which construction started last year, or will start within weeks.