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Housing is a social and economic right – Simpson Miller

Published:Friday | August 28, 2015 | 8:00 AMAdrian Frater

Western Bureau:

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller says her Government views housing as a social and economic right and was treating it as a priority through avenues such as inner-city housing renewal and the development of squatter settlements.

Simpson Miller, who was speaking at yesterday's opening ceremony of the 24th General Assembly of Ministers and High Level Authorities on Housing and Urbanization in Latin America and the Caribbean (MINURVI) in Montego Bay, also spoke to legislative actions and projects that have been undertaken to address the provision of houses for Jamaicans.

Gov't prioritises housing

"Within the framework of the National Housing Policy, my administration has prioritised access to housing and lands for the majority of our people, offering low-income housing, inner-city housing renewal and the development of squatter settlements," the prime minister said.

"In this regard, several legislative actions and projects have been undertaken and are ongoing through agencies such as the Ministry of Housing, the National Housing Trust, the Housing Agency of Jamaica, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, which is

responsible for the Sugar Barracks Relocation Housing Project; the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, which administers the Indigent Housing Programme as well as the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development," added the prime minister.

In noting that successive administrations have sought to institute progressive housing and land-ownership laws and policies over the years, the prime minister said the provision of land and housing was more than just about shelter, but was part and parcel of a deliberate policy to encourage an ownership-society in Jamaica.

Dr Morais Guy, minister without portfolio in the ministry of transport, works and housing, who also gave a presentation, said the expectation was for 35 countries to attend the conference but only 18, inclusive of seven delegations from the Caribbean, were present. He also noted that six visiting ministers of housing were in attendance.

"MINURVI is all about a group of concerned housing ministers sharing ideas, sharing best practices, having a look not only on housing but also on urbanisation," Guy, told The Gleaner in explaining the purpose of MINURVI.

In his presentation, Guy said that in terms of urbanisation, Latin America and the Caribbean was the fastest growing region, and arguably, the region with the biggest challenges.

"Latin America and the Caribbean is the fastest growing region in the world and consequently, we have the biggest challenges. The biggest challenges are unplanned communities, unplanned urban spaces and how to find solutions to these."

In using the city of Montego Bay as an example, Guy pointed to the rural/urban drift, which is driven by the desire of persons from outside wanting to come into the western city to secure jobs in tourism.