No intention to displace residents
THE Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation has moved to assure residents of two central Kingston communities that plans to acquire their properties for housing development will not result in their displacement.
The assertion comes following the Jamaica Observer‘s publication of responses by those residents to an advertisement carried in the December 24 edition of the Observer, which was placed by the ministry.
The ministry, in an urgent notice, had said, “the minister of housing is interested in acquiring the properties”, and proceeded to list the seven parcels located between James Street and Smith Lane in the area in which it had interest, as well as the names of the registered owners. It also appealed to individuals with knowledge of “the whereabouts of the owners or agents” to “kindly contact the Land Administration section within the ministry on or before January 19, 2024”.
However the residents, when made aware of the advertisement by the Observer, voiced fears that they would be evicted and said the planned acquisition was tantamount to betrayal as they had received no assistance from the Government to rebuild when all but two of the homes were devastated by a fire that swept the area during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The residents, several of whom insisted they were up to date with their property tax payments, said they were still in the rebuilding process and chafed at the way in which the process was being carried out.
However on Friday the ministry, in a statement to the Observer, said it wished to “clarify” its position and “dispel any misconceptions affecting central Kingston residents” as the land acquisition advertisement “has unfortunately led to misconceptions”.
“The ministry unequivocally denies any intention to displace residents. Our commitment is to work collaboratively with residents and their representatives to ensure the provision of sustainable, affordable housing,” the statement said.
It said, following the fire in August 2022, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, during a visit to the area with the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) Unit from the ministry, had committed to rebuilding and rehousing the affected families “with a plan to acquire necessary properties for housing development”.
It said a subsequent site visit two days later, which included personnel from the relevant branches of the ministry and the Member of Parliament, was made to “assess the extent of the fire damage and commence planning for the replacement of the affected housing units”.
According to the ministry, the plan also included acquiring 29 James Street â€” a vacant building which poses a security risk.
The ministry said the Member of Parliament has informed the residents about the Government’s acquisition and rehousing plan.
It said it will be “initiating discussions with the Member of Parliament to schedule a meeting in the week of January 3, 2024 with affected families and residents”.
“This meeting aims to discuss comprehensive redevelopment plans for the area aligning with the Government’s urban renewal goals. We remain dedicated to transparent communication and constructive engagement with all stakeholders in this important initiative,” the ministry said.