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Holness: Housing projects for St Thomas coming

Staff reporter

Monday, July 17, 2017

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness has said housing projects for St Thomas will begin “shortly” as part of plans for the development of the eastern parish.

Holness, who was the main speaker at a town hall meeting held at the Goodyear Factory complex in the parish last Thursday, said he has directed the National Housing Trust (NHT) and Minister Without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Dr Horace Chang, to identify “all lands” in the parish. Chang is the minister with responsibility for housing.

“As I drive along the main entrance into this parish I see the condition of the housing situation. We have to deal with the housing situation not only because of the squatting and the historical injustices that are associated with that, but there is also something called climate change.

“Most of the living in this parish is along the coast; if it is not hurricane it is sea level rise, it is unpredictable weather events, it is [epiphenomenon] weather events. And these create the need for us to plan our infrastructure much better than we have,” Holness said, while acknowledging that the parish has not had a “true development plan”.

Recently, while speaking at a ground-breaking ceremony for the Villages of Colbeck Castle Phase 1 and 2 housing development in Old Harbour, St Catherine, the prime minister said the aim of the NHT is to build more houses at a faster pace to help reduce squatting.

He added that some Jamaicans are still of the view that they can build houses wherever they choose to and the Government is still obligated to deliver essential services. He pointed out, however, that sometimes the cost of putting up infrastructure in these places is not practical.

Last week he reiterated that point while speaking to St Thomas residents.

“Effectively what we have said to the housing development agency is to put in place a development plan to catch up with how fast people want house so that them don't have to go build on a hillside or close to the sea or on marginal lands, but lands that are properly developed with infrastructure and service.

“So that is now the mandate; they are looking into that… housing projects will start here shortly,” said Holness.

At the same time, the prime minister said development in the parish will no doubt attract criminals, but urged residents to “run them”.

“I think you should be commended that this parish so far has only had 10 murders in the year. Too many, but compared to other parishes this parish is doing very well. I want you to take pride in that and keep that crime rate and that murder rate down.

“When you see the criminals start to come here because of the development, run them! Don't take them into your house and take them on as new boyfriend and new girlfriend. Run them! Make sure that your parish remains safe and secure because that is going to be one of the greatest attractions for investors to come here,” Holness urged.