Fri | Oct 30, 2020

More funds needed to improve housing stock - Councillor laments paltry allowance to assist residents

Published:Tuesday | July 7, 2020 | 12:26 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter

Whitfield Town Division Councillor Eugene Kelly is lamenting that the $180,000 allocated to him to help constituents improve their housing conditions is woefully inadequate.

“For the last two years, each councillor gets $180,000 – and is Jamaican [dollars] not US – to repair houses,” Kelly, who serves in the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation, told The Gleaner. “At the end of the day, my responsibility is to try see how best those funds can be split up and shared with as many people as possible.”

He calls the meagre allocation a “set-up” of representatives, who constituents believe have much more resources than they actually do.

“A lot of Jamaicans believe that politicians are evil, wicked characters looking to plunder and loot. That is oftentimes the view, but a lot of us, we go into it for service,” he said. “Majority of us do go in for service.”

The quality of the housing stock in many inner-city communities has been a concern for decades, with St Andrew South Western, in which Kelly’s division falls, among constituencies with ramshackle houses.

Kelly said former Member of Parliament Portia Simpson Miller did much to address the situation in the constituency.

“In her 40 years, she has built about five housing schemes. We [are] talking the Majesty Gardens. She built two sets of houses in Majesty, Palm Grove, Caribbean Palm, Delacree Park Phase 2 and Phase 3 – a number of houses,” Kelly said.

Simpson Miller retired from politics in 2017, a year into her ninth term as MP for the constituency, and was succeeded by Dr Angela Brown Burke.

No green space

Turning to the work that remains to be done, Kelly said that there was need for two acres of land to be secured to continue developing the area.

“What happens is there is no green area. All of it is brown space. There is no green space in the Whitfield Town division, which would have facilitated a housing scheme … ,” he said. “Remove the persons, build some multi-storey thing, and put them back. Is a real serious governmental effort need to be done.”

As The Gleaner recently highlighted the plight of 59-year-old Nigel Townsend, who was living in a crumbling home, Kelly said that a significant portion of the housing stock in Whitfield Town was built in the 1930s and ‘40s, and that housing remains the number-one issue for constituents, beating out youth unemployment.

“I met a lady, and she said her father used to carry her on Whitfield Avenue, and they used to walk and look at the pretty houses. So it was a real upper-class community back in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s,” Kelly told The Gleaner.

Community residents and persons in the diaspora have since been rallying to build a new structure to replace Townsend’s home, about which he had expressed fear that it could cave in and injure or kill him.

Kelly said that the political representatives have since made contact with the good Samaritans, seeing how they could pitch in to assist the effort.

“Well, a nuh all of we a go get help ‘cause me never lucky fi get the councillor help yet, but me know the community would feel good fi know say Rama (Townsend) get the help,” one resident commented. “He is a good man and used to work, you know. Hard times can fall on anyone. Furthermore, is not only him have housing issue. More have it worse.”

Anyone who wishes to assist Nigel Townsend may contact Cheryl at 876-884-2576.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com