Downtown Kingston housing development under microscope
Issues of whether there will be affordable housing available for people in downtown Kingston, in addition to unequal employment opportunities, were again raised yesterday as members of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), among other stakeholders, met to give an update on plans for the construction of the office facilities for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
A sum of $666 million has been set aside in the 2016-17 Estimates of Expenditure for the construction of the building through funding from the Government of Jamaica and the Government of the People's Republic of China.
Housing for poorer class
Ronald Thwaites, who is member of Parliament for Kingston Central and opposition spokesman on education, while expressing gratitude to the Chinese government, reiterated his concerns about accommodations for the poorer class of persons, noting that a sustainable model is needed.
"I'm very interested in the issue of housing in the area. People don't need a whole rebuilding of the area. What they need is an improvement of what is already there. They can't afford the big apartment buildings," he said.
Lorna Perkins, deputy general manager for planning development and project management at the UDC, sought to allay those fears, indicating that in addition to the number of business ventures and projects currently being undertaken to boost the economy, housing development, especially for young professionals, is a huge part of development plans.
"We are looking at different types of housing, which will include inner-city housing, low-income housing, and other convenient housing. In our meetings, we recognise that a lot of young persons are now university graduates, so once they get the right jobs, they will be able afford some type of housing," she said.
Daryl Vaz, minister with responsibility for land, environment, climate change, and investment, however, expressed confidence that development would come to fruition in short order.
"This project is a step in the right direction indeed. Relocating government offices such as this ministry to downtown Kingston is a signal to investors of our confidence in the potential as a major cultural hub. The revitalisation of our capital city is critical to the process of investment and achieving economic growth," Vaz said.
Market district improvement
"The downtown Kingston market district is also slated for improvement, and as we know, private sector leaders have created a vision and partnered with the Government with its key agencies and existing stakeholders to significantly upgrade a portion of the district to better serve our vendors, patrons, and, of course, residents," he said.
The minister added: "The projects will provide jobs for residents, both during and after the construction phases. This signals a boost in the value of properties within the surrounding downtown Kingston areas and addresses the challenges created by urban planners."