Thwaites calls out NHT and UDC - MP disappointed with agencies' work in constituency
Central Kingston Member of Parliament Ronald Thwaites has chided the state entities - the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the National Housing Trust (NHT) - for not doing enough to tackle the housing problems plaguing inner-city communities.
Thwaites, whose Central Kingston constituency includes inner-city communities such as Southside, Tel Aviv and Campbell Town, says he has been trying without success to get help from the two state agencies to provide better living conditions for residents.
"Can the Trust be persuaded to really invest in the inner city?" Thwaites asked.
"The point that I have been making to the Trust is that $2 million spent in a yard won't produce new housing, but it will produce a tremendous improvement in terms of removing a zinc fence, allowing for a proper toilet to be built, fixing roofs, regularising electricity and water, bringing people's dwelling to the formal economy, and this is the direction we are going in," said Thwaites.
He argued that some of the NHT's activities, such as some of the purchases it has made, have impacted its capability to undertake certain projects.
"I understand the fiscal difficulties that caused that (Outameni purchase), but there is no doubt that those contributions have curtailed its ability to do some of these things," said Thwaites.
"This is not a situation where you are building houses where you have to lend somebody $10 million or $15 million. What $15 million could do in four yards in central Kingston would improve the whole tone of life," added Thwaites.
Focus NOT on urban Redevelopment
The UDC, which has trumpeted plans for a rebirth of downtown Kingston, has also failed to impress Thwaites.
"Now we have a company called the Urban Development Corporation. I would have thought that urban development meant that you would want to redevelop the urban areas. Now I am not criticising them, they have done some things, but their focus has gone to many other things rather than for this.
"Up to last week I met with the Urban Development Corporation to refine some programme for infill housing, where they take a yard or two yards and construct concrete dwellings. But that depends on the willingness of the housing trust to finance them," added Thwaites.
In defending its performance, the UDC stated that it has developed a starter housing concept for selected communities in the downtown Kingston area and is testing it under a pilot programme.
"The UDC recently held talks with the NHT to gain support to complete the existing pilot site located at Hanover Street, and commence activity on new sites. Assistance in providing mortgage support for prospective homebuyers in these areas was also discussed," said the state entity in an emailed response to Sunday Gleaner queries.
"In addition, the UDC has been providing support to the NHT for the upcoming NHT housing developments at Majesty Gardens, White Wing and Frog City. The UDC's starter unit design is being incorporated with some minor modifications. We expect significant movement on this project for the 2015-16 period," the email continued.