BY INGRID BROWN Associate Editor - Special Assignment email@example.com
SQUATTERS in West Albion, St Thomas say it is unfair that they have not been able to purchase the lots on which they have lived for decades while persons slated for relocation from the Hope River in St Andrew have been successful in acquiring titles to lots many of them have no intention of ever occupying.
Scores of persons who were relocated to West Albion after Tropical Storm Gustav ravaged their homes along the Hope River in 2010 were subsequently sold lots in this division and given grants of $500,000 to help with construction. To date, however, the majority of them are yet to occupy the lands.
After the storm, Government announced that 179 households from Hope Valley and Spanish Town were to be relocated to West Albion and the 23-hectare property be subdivided into 217 lots.
But while these persons received lots, residents who have been living there for years complain that many of them are still unable to replace their termite-infested board houses, which are threatening to collapse on them, with concrete structures as they have no idea if they will ever get the opportunity to own the land.
The scheme, which adjoins the upscale Albion Estate community, is a sore eye with its maze of wooden houses and unfinished concrete structures. Residents insist the community could be more aesthetically pleasing if they were able to get titles which would allow them to construct permanaent structures.
As such, they say they are appealing to the housing minister to intervene so their dreams of owning their own homes can become a reality.
"They told us then that they would settle everybody so we can all get wi title, but since then wi caan hear nutten and the people who relocated here get dem title and can build their concrete houses," Sharon Bennett told the Jamaica Observer North East.
She explained that a few years ago the Housing Agency of Jamaica surveyed the land and separated a section for the persons who were to be relocated, but did nothing to formalise the arrangement for the others.
"Wi want wi little title too like everybody else because it not right that we living here fi so long and wi can't get to own it and they just come and get dem title," she said.
Bennett added: "Up this section where we live look terrible compare to houses down there because people build concrete houses and it is our greatest wish to know we have a piece a paper to say is ours so we can build concrete houses, too."
Another resident told the Observer North East that in 2009, they were informed by their Member of Parliament James Robertson that they would have been relocated to another area, but he had not said where.
Four years later, the residents say they remain in limbo.
"Mi nuh have no objection to people coming here to live but settle everybody and let we all pay the little $3,000 a month because that is what they have been asked to pay and is not all of dem did own their house where dem coming from," a resident, who requested anonymity, said.
The resident argued further that it has been unfair, given that many of the persons who now own these lands have no intention of occupying them.
"Some of dem who do come over here come live, rent out dem house over the Hope River so dem end up with two place and wi nuh have nowhere fi wiself," the resident said.
Another resident argued that while they wait on Government to sell them the lands the cost of building materials is increasing.
"By the time we get fi build concrete house the price of everything gone through the roof," said the resident who, having grown weary of waiting, has started construction of a concrete dwelling.
The lack of formalisation also means that the residents have not been able to secure legal electricity connection at their homes.
"You want to see how pretty down that section looks at night when the lights are on and we live up here so long and we are left to the peril of darkness," a resident complained.
Meanwhile, Marva Campbell, a resident relocated from the Hope River to West Albion, said many persons have still not relocated to the area, and she attributed this to their inability to afford to build houses.
"Tings very tough over here because it is not like when you live in town," she said, adding that she is yet to complete her structure.
She admitted that she and fellow residents were given the $500,000 in cheques redeemable at a nearby hardware store, but insisted that it was just a drop in the bucket given the high cost of building materials.
Some persons, she said, have also not relocated as they are unable to find employment in the parish.
"Tings tough out here. Real tough," she said.
According to Campbell, they have not been able to set up small businesses at home as they are accustomed to, given the restrictions imposed on the community.
"Everything so expensive and when construction workers come in the area fi work wi can't even set up one little shop on wi house where dem can get something fi buy," she said, adding that many cannot afford to buy at the nearby supermarket.