Social housing programme gets going

Social housing programme gets going

Land tenure, however, a concern for implementing agency

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Print this page Email A Friend!

THE Government's new social housing programme — which is being rolled out under the Housing, Opportunity, Production, Employment (HOPE) — has received 173 applications for new housing and/or tenement rehabilitation from all parishes since the initiative started last June.

Of the applications received — which have come from 39 constituencies — 71 have been approved, while 24 are awaiting the required documentation.

The initiative, which was first announced by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen last February in the throne speech, was again highlighted last week at the start of the new parliamentary year.

The programme, intended to provide housing for the poorest Jamaicans, will see the upgrading of tenements in urban areas which are known as “big yards”.

Danville Walker, who heads the project office, made it clear that this is not a low-income housing programme, but rather shelter for the indigent. Each application is reviewed by the programme's five-member board before approval, after which there is a formal procurement process before work begins.

However, Walker said land tenure has been a major hindrance to rolling out the works. He added that oftentimes there are other issues such as unpaid taxes.

“... There are a lot of people who need help, but one of the challenges is that people who live in these indigent conditions aren't land owners. Many are living on land that has been bequeathed to them; they are informal structures, and it takes a while to sort out land tenure. The very nature of the beneficiary is the absence of an asset, and that is the biggest challenge in some constituencies,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

People may apply on their own, but Walker said the majority of the requests so far have come through the offices of the Members of Parliament. Applicants must, however, meet the criteria for approval, which includes having their housing needs verified by a justice of the peace or a pastor.

Walker, meanwhile, is adamant that land ownership must be verified before approval.

“[If it is] a board house you can move and if someone comes along, and says I never gave you permission, you can move it. You can't move block and steel. Government can't operate that way. Procurement procedures have to be followed, and we are not going to try to shortcut them,” he said.

The concrete units are complete with bathrooms and kitchens, and range in design from one-to three-bedrooms, for now.

So far, the programme has assisted 17 people at Bay Farm Road in St Andrew by reconstructing — with additional rooms — their four-bedroom home which was burnt out.

In Annotto Bay, St Mary, a disorganised tenement is being rehabilitated, and a senior citizen in north west Clarendon, who was in dire need, also had her three-bedroom house rebuilt.

The programme is moving to take on larger tenements, with Cambridge, in Montego Bay, and Falmouth, Trelawny, slated to come on-stream.

According to the Government's draft National Housing Policy, there is need for at least 15,000 new housing units annually up to 2030, which will require increasing the present annual production of housing solutions by a minimum of 5,000 units each year.

“Additionally, 2,400 units will have to be replaced on a yearly basis to address the qualitative deficit,” the proposed policy outlines.

Housing demand surveys carried out by the National Housing Trust from 2014 to 2017 indicated that the majority of those surveyed said they would be able to afford housing units costing between $4 million and $4.99 million.

“Traditionally, Government has attempted to meet the demand of people within the low-income categories, but is no longer able to do so because of fiscal and institutional borrowing constraints,” the social housing draft policy stated.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at




1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

comments powered by Disqus



Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon