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Jamaica needs clearer squatting policies - IDB report

Published:Saturday | April 9, 2016 | 4:00 AMJovan Johnson

With almost 20 per cent of Jamaica's population living in squatter settlements, a new international report says that the Jamaican Government needs a "clear and definitive" policy for fixing the squatting problem.

The report titled The State of Social Housing in Six Caribbean Countries by the Inter-American Development Bank was released yesterday. It analysed the implementation of social housing programmes in the Caribbean from 2000 to 2015 in Jamaica, The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Substandard housing

It noted that currently one million people in all six countries "live in substandard housing" and about US$1.8 billion would be needed to end the poor housing conditions.

Pointing to Jamaica, the IDB report stated that the Government has to do more to develop a clear policy on how to fix the problem.

It made the conclusion after tracking government action in the past 10 years, which included the establishment in 2006 of a squatter management unit in the ministry of agriculture.

The report noted that despite the aims of the unit, it has been understaffed and under-resourced.

Concentrated in urban areas

The majority of Jamaica's 750 squatter settlements of about 600,000 people are mainly residential and are mostly concentrated in urban areas, the report noted.

It revealed also that the most obvious and immediate result of this concentration is the "deterioration of the urban environment".

"In general, it (concentration in urban areas) has been caused by the increasing gap between economic growth and population growth," the report said.

Last December, the United Nations' Human Development Report presented data which point to increasing levels of inequality in Jamaica, which amplifies the economic gap between different segments of the society and the impact on affordability of basic amenities.