“The History of our country is that land settlement was not always fair and accessible; there are generations of Jamaicans who have no formal access to land or housing and therefore shelter is a major problem for countries like Jamaica with a history of enslavement and a plantation economy. The Government recognizes the need for ongoing policies on land settlement and housing.”
Prime Minister Andrew Holness says by virtue of its history, Jamaica has longstanding issues with land distribution, an issue with which successive governments since independence have grappled. Noting that while the government regularizes lands for its citizens, there is the practice of irregular settlements which precedes government structured planning. The Prime Minister says this practice limits the prospects of the community with regard to appropriate and effective infrastructure including roads, water supply, sewage systems and garbage collection.
The Prime Minister says, all across the country Jamaicans are settling lands irregularly because they are not waiting on the government to provide formal access. This he noted creates chaos in society leading to the creation of communities that are difficult to police, and whose potential for growth and development are limited.
To address this major challenge, the Prime Minister says the Government is trying to get ahead of the incredible demand for land and housing by taking strategic actions to help Jamaicans access land and housing assets irrespective of their economic status.
One of these strategies is the creation of an effective regulatory environment to enable Jamaicans who are employed, and who have access to resources and income, to access mortgages to purchase homes on the open market.
The other, the Prime Minister noted, is the innovations of the National Housing Trust and the Housing Agency of Jamaica.
The Prime Minister said middle-income earning Jamaicans might be able to access mortgages, however, there are simply not enough available homes to meet the demand. The Prime Minister said this is where NHT and HAJ come in to correct this market failure, especially through programs such as the Guaranteed Purchase Programme. The Prime Minister observed that on average, homes built by the NHT, and HAJ are often oversubscribed as soon as they are advertised and so the Government is continuing to innovate to meet the demand for housing.
However, the Prime Minister said, notwithstanding the innovations at those levels, there are significant market failures as it relates to minimum wage to low-income earners. This he said is the reason the NHT has been directed to ensure houses are built that are compatible with the income of minimum wage, lower-, and middle-income earners.
In this regard, the Prime Minister said more housing schemes will come on stream to meet those demands.
Still, the Prime Minister emphasized, there is yet another segment of the population whose housing needs are difficult for the market to meet, and these are those Jamaicans with no income at all.
“What should happen to those people?” the Prime Minister asked rhetorically, “These are people who are unemployed and therefore have no resources and live in conditions that are inadequate, often deplorable and unfit for human habitation.”
Responding to the question of what should happen to them, the Prime Minister said these vulnerable Jamaicans, the poorest of the poor, should have access to decent housing. He said meeting the needs of this segment of the Jamaican population, forms an important part of Jamaica’s social conscience and drive to restore equity given the historical wrongs.
This the Prime Minister said is what makes the New Social Housing Programme so important.
While underscoring that the poor conditions of Jamaicans who do not have income, or income-earning potential, drive the desire to settle lands illegally, the Prime Minister said the practice is in conflict with the rules and regulations of our society, and those who engage in it often end up living in fear as they anticipate their eventual removal.
Ultimately the Prime Minister stated, the Government is doing everything to meet the land and housing needs of Jamaicans as evidenced by the various programs it has implemented and continues to explore.
The Prime Minister was speaking at the handing over ceremony for six (6) social houses last Thursday, November 9, 2022.