Manchester residents receive land titles
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, shares a light moment with Chief Executive Officer of the National Land Agency (NLA)/Commissioner of Lands, Cheriese Walcott, during the land titling ceremony under the NLA’s Systematic Land Registration (SLR) programme, held at the New Forest High School in Manchester on February 7.

KINGSTON, Jamaica— Twenty residents of New Forest and surrounding communities in Manchester are now proud landowners having received certificates of title for property they have occupied for several years.

The documents, provided under the National Land Agency’s (NLA) Systematic Land Registration (SLR) programme, were handed over during a ceremony held on Tuesday at the New Forest High School in the parish.

Under the SLR programme, people receive assistance to become legal owners of the land that they have lived on openly and undisturbed, and have had undisputed possession of for 12 years or more.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who delivered the keynote address, said that some 40 per cent or 350,000 parcels of land in Jamaica are unregistered, and many people are occupying property for which they do not have titles.

This, he argued, prevents them “from using the value of the land for the benefit of themselves and their families or as a tool for wealth creation.”

He noted that living, farming and existing on the land does not unlock its true value.

“If you want to go a step further in creating wealth and value out of the land, you need to have the government's backing of the land to say you own it and can claim its value if you want to sell it,” the Prime Minister pointed out.

“If you wanted to put it up as collateral to get more capital to create greater wealth for education or business, not having a title would prevent you from taking the next step to wealth creation and a departure from poverty,” he added.

The Prime Minister said that the Government is committed to breaking the informality that exists in land occupation in Jamaica and putting legitimate titles in the hands of citizens.

“We want to change that psyche of informality because informality breeds disorder, it creates a space in which only the strong and those able to use deceptive and deceitful tactics will survive. If you want a space that is safe for everyone – where the weak and strong have a fair chance of survival, we must have a formal system, because a formal system is also a transparent system,” he said.

Senior Director, Adjudication Services at the NLA, Shalise Porteous, explained that the agency has been mandated by Government to issue 20,000 certificates of title in three years, ending March 2024, and 12,000 of that amount will be delivered via SLR.

The programme commenced in January 2021 and since then, more than 16,000 parcels of land have been investigated, and rights and interests in another 8,000 parcels in St Elizabeth, St Catherine and Manchester have been already adjudicated, Porteous informed.

She said that as of January 31, a total of 7,169 adjudication certificates have been issued, yielding a corresponding number of titles.

She added that no other land titling programme, to date, has resulted in the mass registration of parcels of land over such a short period of time, thereby putting the NLA on track to meet its target.

The registration programme in Manchester began with extensive investigations in communities last January, covering Downs, Sea Air, Blake’s Pen and New Forest.

House-to-house visits were also done where people claiming an interest in the lands were interviewed.

Community members were asked to verify information gathered and once the team was satisfied, the documentation was done in preparation for issuing titles.

More than 40 more communities in the parish are in line to benefit from the programme.

They include Harmons, St Tulis, Carter, Cheepside, Coco Walk, Dobson, Frankfield, Good Hope and Green Vale.

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