Wed | Aug 5, 2020

Residents plead for NHT mercy as eviction deadline passes

Published:Thursday | July 23, 2020 | 12:09 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
As children play outside her White Wing home near Three Miles, St Andrew, Lacey-Ann Brown, mother to a one-month-old girl, ponders her next move after a July 18 eviction deadline passed. The residents were issued notices of eviction from the National Housi
As children play outside her White Wing home near Three Miles, St Andrew, Lacey-Ann Brown, mother to a one-month-old girl, ponders her next move after a July 18 eviction deadline passed. The residents were issued notices of eviction from the National Housing Trust, which plans to build houses on the property.

Lacey-Ann Brown, who gave birth to a baby girl a month ago, is among dozens of residents on the verge of being evicted from homes at 10 Olympic Way, White Wing, in Kingston.

After years of warnings from the National Housing Trust (NHT) to vacate the premises, time has run out for Brown and others who still haven’t found alternative accommodation.

Brown has lived at the sprawling lands at White Wing for 13 years. She said that NHT officials had, eight years ago, informed them of plans to build homes but claims that the Trust had not returned until February of this year to press its claims for possession. That date was extended to March.

A further extension was granted because of COVID-19 containment concerns.

Correspondence under the signature of the NHT’s legal counsel, Dawn Walker, and dated July 4, 2020, gave hundreds of occupants notice to vacate the premises by July 18.

“They said they want to build single flats over here, so if we pay our NHT and qualify, we can get a house when dem finish building them in one year and six months,” Brown told The Gleaner.

Relocating to her hometown of Spanish Town, St Catherine, however, would be difficult for Brown and her four children, who go to school close to their current home.

Some of the 12 entrepreneurs who operate from the premises are anxious about the future, saying that they would struggle to start over. The current buildings are slated for demolition in preparation for construction.

But the NHT has shot back at accusations of callousness, saying that 248 housing units had been constructed at 231 Spanish Town Road in Kingston between August 2005 and October 2007. They were handed over to residents of White Wing, NHT Corporate and Public Affairs Manager Dwayne Berbick said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

Anecdotal reports have emerged, a source told The Gleaner, that some residents had rented out homes instead of moving in.

CONCERNED ABOUT BUSINESS

Businessman Aaron Clarke said that while scores of residents have already relocated, others have cited a cash crunch caused by COVID-19 economic collapse as the reason why they have nowhere to go. Clarke has already found a new location but is concerned about the future of his business.

“My request is that they have some compassion and give the people some more time. Most of them get place and gone, but di people dem weh lef back nuh really have nuh weh fi go. Why the rush?” Clarke told The Gleaner.

“COVID come in and change di dynamics of everybody life and mash up economies of big countries, and those governments a try help the people and not displace them.”

Clarke and other commercial operators are also demanding compensation for the impending destruction of the structures that housed their businesses.

A tour of the property by The Gleaner on Tuesday revealed a number of small businesses that may have to shutter their doors. Clarke himself operates an Internet cafe and gaming shop. There are also three barbershops, a hairdresser, two cook shops, a furniture maker, a clothing and apparel store, and a wholesale.

The NHT said that construction contracts were awarded to a contractor in June 2020 and on July 8, 2020.

The Trust gave possession of the property to the contractors, Berbick said, but the NHT is “assessing the situation” because residents still live on the property.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com