Sat | Nov 17, 2018

Use NHT money to attack squatting - Phillips

Published:Sunday | March 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips (right) adressing members of the media last Friday, while the PNP’s Fitz Jackson looks on.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips is proposing that $10 billion of long-term uncollected refunds be pulled from the coffers of the National Housing Trust (NHT) to transform squatter communities across the island and address the question of landownership for 700,000 Jamaicans living in informal settlements.

Addressing a post-budget press conference last Friday, Phillips said this is one measure the PNP would implement if it forms the next government.

"Upgrading these communities or spending some of the other resources of the NHT would be entirely legitimate within the law to upgrade communities," argued Phillips.

He said the first step to get the project under way would be to survey the lands in the communities and allot titles to the occupants. With the occupants acquiring titles, this would give them the opportunity to access their own financing.

"All the evidence in Jamaica suggests that once given the title and basic amenities people use their own initiative, so-called sweat equity to upgrade the conditions of their houses," said Philips.

He argued that money from the uncollected refunds at the NHT could be used to upgrade the infrastructure such as sewerage, water and light in squatter settlements.

The opposition leader said the NHT refunds that would be targeted were those that remained uncollected for seven years and more.

According to Phillips, in many squatter settlements there were NHT contributors who make monthly payments at their respective workplaces and as self-employed individuals.

However, he noted that many of them were not able to get a benefit for various reasons.

He insisted that something far-reaching must be done to halt the process of the proliferation of squatter communities across the country.

Pushing for speedy land-reform measures, Phillips also asserted that the modernisation of the agriculture sector could not be achieved with about 60 per cent of small farmers working on lands to which they have no titles.

 

PNP's Squatter Community Transformation Programme

 

Release Government lands for titling where communities exist or to replace the squatter communities.

Investing at least $10 billion of uncollected (NHT) refunds to finance the programme including:

- Survey of existing housing sites

- Assistance with the provision of ownership certificates and titles

- Assistance with building units to enable them to meet minimum standards

- Upgrading the infrastructure such as sewerage facilities, water supplies and work with the Jamaica Public Service Company to regularise electricity supply.