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Delroy Chuck: Urban renewal – a way forward

Published:Sunday | September 6, 2015 | 9:00 AMDelroy Chuck
Delroy Chuck

My presentation in Parliament on Tuesday, September 1, 2015 was inaccurately interpreted as a form of gentrification, which was absurd. Indeed, I spoke mainly of depressed areas and never suggested the replacement of poor people's homes by middle-income and affluent residents. My concern is how we can undertake the urgent and immediate need for urban renewal and revival.

Virtually all the previously well-appointed residences in the parish of Kingston and in southern St Andrew, many over 80 years old, have fallen into disrepute, are unsafe, or are being used for commercial activities. They need to be urgently replaced - but how, and with what ?

Very few prospective homeowners want to buy into these depressed areas, and thus, with no renewal, even further deterioration is anticipated.

At the same time, there are many young professionals and prospective homeowners who want affordable properties in the $10-million-$20-million range, but enough are not available. In northern St Andrew, apartments in this price range are selling easily.

Well, a better housing policy is needed. Prime agricultural and development lands in St Catherine are being turned into needed housing developments and at affordable prices. The effect, however, is disastrous. The majority of residents work in Kingston and travel long distances to and from work. They would rather buy homes close to their workplaces.

Why have we not followed what many cities have done and engage in a continuing process of urban renewal?

My proposal is for the Government to use the Housing Act or any necessary law to acquire large tracts of property, of at least five acres, in communities such as Vineyard Town, Allman Town, Rollington Town, Franklyn Town, Swallowfield, etc. and enter into joint-venture agreements with private developers to build affordable apartments and town houses in closed, gated and safe communities.

Indeed, the National Housing Trust - with its many billions, unfortunately waiting on a rapacious Government to waste and spend it, instead of building homes - could be the vehicle to acquire the lands and to work with the private developers for accommodation in an affordable price range.

No doubt, the properties being acquired should be purchased at market value or even at more fair and reasonable prices to allow their owners to buy into homes elsewhere or, perhaps in time, into one of the homes being constructed in the newly

developed areas.

There are many legal and administrative uncertainties and concerns that may pose obstacles. However, with goodwill and cooperation, the process of urban renewal and revival of our hitherto prestigious residential communities can transform the depressed communities in Kingston and St Andrew into attractive and desirable places to live.

- Delroy Chuck is an attorney-at-law and member of parliament for North East St Andrew. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.