Tova Hamilton calls for tidying up of informal settlements
HAMILTON.. to date, no information or update has been made available to the public

MEMBER of Parliament for Northern Trelawny Tova Hamilton has called for informal housing arrangements in that constituency to be tidied up, and for private sector partnerships to provide affordable housing to residents.

Making her presentation in the state of the nation debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Hamilton pointed to the Windsor Hills housing development, that the National Housing Trust broke ground for in 2012, but remains uncompleted, two years past the scheduled date.

"To date, no information or update has been made available to the public," she noted.The MP also called for an update on uncompleted planned settlement at Cave Island in the parish, which was launched under Operation Programme for Resettlement and Integrated Development Enterprise (PRIDE) in 2000.

"Operation PRIDE was launched in 1994 to resolve housing needs for majority of Jamaicans by developing new planned settlements and upgrading of existing settlements. Described as a unique method of making land legally accessible to low-income groups at affordable prices through government subsidies," she said, noting that 269 members of a providence society which signed up for the Cave Island development at a subsidised cost were now looking to her to resolve that 22-year-old matter.

"Fast forward 22 years and the promise of infrastructure remains unfulfilled because of project overruns, improper choice location, corruption, and nepotism. Add to this the fact that all of 10 persons have paid in full on the original price agreement," she told the House, pointing out that Cave Island is one of several informal settlements islandwide which PRIDE has left it in its wake.

Hamilton said the socio-economic, health and environmental issues associated with informal settlements are very costly to the nation, and significant resources are required to provide the necessary infrastructure to regularise these settlements.

She said she was therefore making a special appeal to Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke to weigh the benefits of regularising settlements at several areas including Hampden, Samuels Prospect, Texas, Green Mount. She said based on discussions with SCJ Holdings and other stakeholders, a path has been devised to regularise settlements in these areas, but that it will require significant funding.

Meanwhile, Hamilton said following an audit of lands in her constituency to identify those most suitable for housing, five parcels have been pinpointed to immediately accommodate housing development, and preliminary talks have been held with the Housing Agency of Jamaica to explore housing prospects for north Trelawny.

Furthermore, she urged the private sector to "take a chance" on the construction of affordable housing in the constituency. "I will also encourage our construction of green buildings to reduce or eliminate negative impacts on the environment and fight climate change," the first-term MP stated.

The constituency debate, initiated in 2015, was conceptualised to give priority to backbenchers in the House, to speak on matters affecting their constituencies. It gives the MPs, who are not ministers, an opportunity to speak on issues affecting their constituency, and developmental activities, and proposals, with a view to having these considered by the minister of finance when deciding on expenditure and revenue.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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