Sun | Nov 17, 2019

NEW ORDER - Holness says new St Catherine model scheme will be strictly regulated

Published:Wednesday | October 16, 2019 | 1:43 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer

A St Catherine housing scheme that was shelved after the private-sector partner jumped ship is being resurrected and rebranded as a template for future housing developments in Jamaica.

Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) Chairman Norman Brown told yesterday’s joint-venture agreement signing ceremony at Jamaica House that in 2011, Dr Horace Chang, who held the housing portfolio, made several parcels of land at Bernard Lodge available to the HAJ for construction of houses. By 2013, when plans for the project were far advanced and the necessary environmental permits in place and well over 700 prospective buyers had made deposits, the private developer backed out.

Now the Government is breathing new life into the plans as Catherine Estates development and the HAJ is partnering with China Harbour Engineering Company Limited on the $9.5-billion project to construct 1,650 starter housing units, comprising studios and one-bedroom apartments. The projected selling prices for the units are $5.5 million for a studio and $6.6 million for a one-bedroom dwelling. However, Brown explained that the initial 47 depositors would pay the original 2013 price of $4.2 million and $5 million, respectively.

CONSTRUCTION TIMELINE

Construction is set to begin next month on what will be the largest housing construction in St Catherine since the Greater Portmore development. It is slated to be completed in four and a half years.

Chinese Ambassador Tian Qi used the opportunity to remind the Government of the importance of building something more lasting than brick and mortar.

“In China, we always say that water can carry boat, but it can also capsize it. To the Government, the party in power, people [are] the water. The Government – the party – is the boat. When the residents have their own houses, when the farmers have their own farming land, this is very important and basic conditions to the stability and harmony of the society,” he said.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the housing development would set a new standard for future government projects.

“The new 2019 draft housing policy, which was tabled in Parliament, envisions a country where sufficient, affordable and appropriate housing choices are available to foster socially diverse and inclusive communities. We need to build enough housing solutions that are affordable and sustainable and we need to build them at a rate to prevent the issue of the informal settling and the informal creation of shelter solutions,” the prime minister said.

Holness said that facilities such as shops and other social amenities will be built into the communities in a structured way, instead of being allowed to develop in a haphazard manner, ultimately leading to property devaluation.

“These are communities that will be strictly regulated with covenants to make sure that the communities don’t descend into chaos,” he said.

“So, yes, you will buy your property, but you won’t be able to park your big truck and open up a garage. And in some cases we’ve seen come to us, people having funeral parlour in residential areas. That will not happen in this community.

“I think Jamaicans have to come to this understanding that no matter what your status is in life or your economic profile, there are standards which must be maintained. Poverty does not mean chaos and disorder, and the Government has to take a stand as we build out more communities, because what we are finding is that that when you allow the community to deteriorate, then it becomes a safe harbour for crime and social deviants. So we are putting in place all the components for a safe, sustainable and affordable community,” Holness added.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com