Praying for Houses and Parsons
As provocative as Delroy Chuck's 'buy them out' suggestion may be, it is one that is worthy of serious consideration, providing it is undertaken in such a way that will preserve the dignity of the less-fortunate people who occupy these depressed areas.
Chuck, while speaking in the first-ever Constituency Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, said: "It might not be a bad idea for [the] Government to declare certain depressed areas, especially in Kingston and St Andrew, to be development areas".
"Take a five acre, buy out the people and let private developers bid in order to put in some housing developments," Chuck said.
"You buy them out and they go elsewhere," Chuck added.
On the face of it, Chuck's arguments appear cold. He seems like a man whose sole intent is to see depressed communities transplanted from his constituency to somewhere else.
But as Government Member of Parliament (MP) Julian Robinson reasoned, there are many communities, especially in his South East St Andrew constituency, where the owners can no longer afford to maintain them. These communities have lost their sheen and are in dire need of rejuvenation.
Perhaps it is not a bad idea for the Urban Development Corporation, the Housing Agency of Jamaica, the National Housing Trust and the Development Bank of Jamaica to collaborate on a massive rejuvenation project. This may be done along the lines of Public Private Partnerships, with entities such as China Harbour Engineering Company invited build these new communities.
A SERIOUS HOUSING PROBLEM
Jamaica has a serious housing problem. Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing Dr Morais Guy has said that recent surveys have indicated that Jamaica is facing a deficit of approximately 450,000 housing solutions with the sector averaging fewer than 3,000 units per year.
The problem gets bigger when the matter of cost is considered. A report prepared for Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), last year shows that the total effective demand for NHT housing solutions between April 2009 and March 2014 was 17,339.
The term effective demand is a representation of the actual amount of goods or services that buyers are purchasing in a given market. It is a reflection of the extent to which buyers' income, perceptions and needs combine to result in an actual purchase rather than a mere desire to purchase.
Two groups that suffer immensely from this housing gap are young professionals and the poor. Paul Buchanan, MP for West Rural St Andrew, has suggested that the tainted Operation PRIDE programme be brought back on stream.
Buchanan, former head of Operation PRIDE, said there are approximately 45,000 lots of lands owned by the State that can be used under a restarted PRIDE programme.
"We need to move away from the deeds of men who did wrong and focus on the positives of the PRIDE programme," Buchanan said.
A PERMANENT GHOST
The problem, however, is that the Operation PRIDE ghost will not go away, and the advocacy for its resurrection should come from somewhere else.
One notes that in 2012, Guy told parliament that the Portia Simpson Miller government would be reactivating PRIDE projects "that are deemed most feasible".
"The restoration of the programme will also be examined within the context of the increasing environmental and technical standards to be met," Guy said.
It is interesting, however, that there was no mention of PRIDE by Guy in the list of nearly 6,000 housing solutions he said the Government will be bringing on stream by 2017.
As it relates to housing for the poor, we see where the Government has somewhat revived the Inner-city Housing Programme. Based on the cries from West Kingston MP Desmond McKenzie, consideration should be given to improving the housing stock in areas such as Denham Town, Tivoli Gardens and Hanna Town.
It would be a travesty, however, if, as was the case in the past, the funds of contributors to the NHT, is used to build houses for non-contributors. Chuck's "buy them out" proposal could go a far way in changing the character of communities like those in West Kingston. Just imagine, for example, the state acquiring large tracts of land in areas of Trench Town, Denham Town, Craig Town and Spanish Town Road and putting in housing solutions for young professionals and poorer Jamaicans.
The same should be done in Spanish Town, Montego Bay, Vineyard Town, Rollington Town and Woodford Park.
The presence of new houses will, without doubt, be the start of a massive transformation of those areas. One acknowledges, however, that the new houses are not sufficient to bring the change. That, though, is an entirely separate conversation that should take place. The Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee of the House should seriously consider this matter.
On another note, Audley Shaw, MP for North East Manchester, should consider going into the ministry. He should, however, as far as possible, avoid pointing exact chapter and verse. For, as he demonstrated in the House last week, he is more than useful when it comes to quoting from the scriptures. In his contribution to the State of the Constituency Debate, Shaw encouraged Jamaican parents to teach their children to read the Bible.
It says 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge', teach them that. And teach them to read," Shaw said.
And despite the insistence of Government members like Robert Pickersgill and Dr Lynvale Bloomfield that Shaw got the text wrong, and he should substitute the word 'knowledge' with 'wisdom', Shaw held his ground.
"I am being told that I misquoted the Bible. I want to tell the minister, the Bible, in the Book of Proverbs, chapter three verse five, it says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge'. It goes on to say fools despise wisdom and instructions," Shaw said.
Well, Shaw is no fool. He got that quotation 100 per cent correct. He only missed the chapter and verse, which is actually Proverbs 1:7. That, according to the King James Version (KJV), states, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Proverbs 9:10 does say "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding" so Pickersgill and Bloomfield weren't wrong either.
The passage that Shaw referenced as Proverbs 3:5 actually states: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."
Shaw should perhaps start volunteering to say prayers at the start of each sitting.