Affordable housing to take centre stage at MoBay expo


Affordable housing to take centre stage at MoBay expo

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — When the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry opens its 2020 expo on March 6, one of the areas of focus will be the need for more affordable housing in western Jamaica.

The discussions, to be spearheaded by Angella Whitter, chamber director and chairperson for 'Invest MoBay' and the affordable housing section of the expo, will also bring to light Montego Bay's ever-growing population, the risks posed by the continued embracing of informal settlements, and the need to find or build affordable houses for low-income workers.

“One of the basic needs of every human being is to have a place to rest their head at nights. Every parent's role is to ensure that they provide a good base to raise their family,” Whitter, who is also a landowner, developer and business owner, noted.

“That said, Montego Bay has not been able to develop in a structured manner because most communities have not satisfactorily prepared themselves for the need to find adequate homes for the ever-growing population,” she continued.

Whitter, in noting that the tourism capital “has grown leaps and bounds in every sector imaginable”, added that the net result has alarmingly brought on an increase in informal settlements “all over the place”.

She said even developments that were built within a structured framework have now been partially and inadvertently forced into informal settlements.

“What readily comes to mind are developments such as Bogue Village, Rose Vale, Ryne Park, Granville, Irwin Meadows, West Village,” Whitter added.

“These developments were planned and executed. However, if you drive through any one of these developments today, it looks chaotic. The roadway and other infrastructure are inadequate to deal with the [amount] of traffic that goes [in] and out of the communities. This is a challenge. This has caused a significant issue with productive time because persons are held up in traffic to and fro, in order to go about their daily business,” she said.

Whitter, in the meantime, added that another issue has to do with creating environments and developments for what she called the purpose of fostering sound family values.

She said developers, while oftentimes well-intentioned, should rethink the practice of doing developments and making the “lion's share of those developments” one-bedroom offerings, adding that it sends the wrong message.

“We cannot develop family structures in one-bedroom units. We must look at building two-bedrooms at a bare minimum and provide the grant structures to make them affordable to those needing places to live,” Whitter noted.

She said that the booming hotel sector, which is a driving force behind both the rental and homeownership markets, only reinforces the need for more affordable housing.

“The increase in hotel rooms and jobs in the global services sector has also created a high demand for housing for employees and families,” Whitter added.

For her part, president of the chamber, Janet Silvera, in describing the points raised by Whitter as “very important and thought-provoking”, said the issues surrounding affordable housing will make for a very exciting discussion at the expo.

MoBay Expo 2020 will be held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James March 6-8. The Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ), project owners for the 754 affordable housing units for tourism workers in Rhyne Park in the parish, for which ground was broken last August, National Housing Trust (NHT), as well as Victoria Mutual, are major sponsors of the event.

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