Holness says his Gov't will solve squatter problem

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness said yesterday that the squatter problem facing Jamaica is really a function of the lack of housing solutions in the formal market.

However, the prime minister, who was speaking at a function marking a collaborative effort between the private firm World Homes Jamaica Limited and the National Housing Trust (NHT) to build 239 houses in a project known as Foreshore Estate in the inner-city area of Delacree Pen in St Andrew South Western, said that his Government is up to the task and will solve the problem.

“We will solve this squatting problem, because we will build enough houses to meet the demand that is generated yearly,” he told the audience at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Foreshore Estate development.

Holness was introduced to the audience by former Prime Minister, Edward Seaga who congratulated him for carrying through the project in an area that votes overwhelmingly in support of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP).

Seaga acknowledged the project as the brainchild of former prime minister and PNP leader, Portia Simpson Miller, but noted his strong support for its development over the years and remarked on the countless delays which had held it up.

The prime minister, in an obvious response to a speech made by current PNP Leader Dr Peter Phillips in Brandon Hill, St Andrew West Rural, on Sunday night, said that his Government would put an end to the squatting problem.

Holness said that the collaboration between World Homes and the NHT was indicative of his Government's efforts, through its developer's initiative programme, to deal with the risk issues that face developers of low-income or “affordable” housing projects.

The prime minister said that the Government expects this programme to produce “high-quality” houses at an affordable price, and people who want to own units would do so solely through the NHT.

“That's the whole idea behind it. We are expecting that in the next five years we will be doing about 22,000 houses using this model of partnership between the NHT, the private developers and the squatter communities,” he said.

“So, when you talk about the squatter problem, it is not only a function of the availability of land; the squatter problem is really a function of the lack of housing solutions being provided by the formal market. That's the only way,” Holness said.

“Giving away the house is not going to solve the problem. To own a home means that you have a stake in ensuring that the community develops and remains at a high standard; that you have the asset there to protect. What we must give away is the ability to earn it, meaning that we must give people credit, and that is what the NHT does. So we don't give away the house, but you make it affordable to own, and that is the strategy of this Government,” he stated.

“There is a backlog already in housing demand. Our strategy will clear it, and then we will build enough houses every year to ensure that the market for housing clears, and then you will not have a squatting problem. This is the solution for dealing with the squatting problem in Jamaica. It is not a promise, not a gimmick, not appealing for any emotions; this is the way of getting it done, and we will get it done,” Holness insisted.

In the meantime, William Lai, who is the son of well-known, veteran builder Eddie Lai — a pioneer of the development of New Kingston — credited his father with the idea for creating World Homes to build houses for low-income families in the Caribbean.

He noted that the new Foreshore Estate would be a gated community with social amenities including children's playgrounds, and that the cost would vary from $1.4 million for starter units to $5.35 million for two bedrooms, which would be with accessible the own-a-home loans offered by the NHT.

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