Thu | Aug 13, 2020

Holness defends low-cost housing

Published:Friday | July 31, 2020 | 12:24 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right) dialogues with Kemoy Thomas (left) and St Catherine South West Member of Parliament Everald Warmington (second right) and other members of the community after a newly built home was handed over to Thomas, who is visual
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right) dialogues with Kemoy Thomas (left) and St Catherine South West Member of Parliament Everald Warmington (second right) and other members of the community after a newly built home was handed over to Thomas, who is visually impaired, under the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment programme.

Even as he defended the Government’s procurement policies that often drive up pricing, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has committed to launching a design competition for low-cost housing options.

But Holness has insisted that his administration would adhere to the strictures of government policy in order to maintain transparency. Those added costs, the prime minister said, include procurement, legal, and administrative fees.

“You, the taxpayers, need to know that what the Government says it costs is actually what it costs,” Holness told the gathering at a handover ceremony in Old Harbour Bay, St Catherine, on Thursday.

The prime minister was in the constituency of St Catherine South West Member of Parliament Everald Warmington, where he presented two units to residents under the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme.

Holness admitted that the construction could have been “structured differently so that some of the amenities that were in it could have been taken out”.

“But I think that that would have changed the vision that we want to achieve about equity across housing,” he said, before cutting the ribbon to a three-bedroom unit in Moore Pen for beneficiary Mellissa Smith.

The unit was constructed at a cost of $10.5 million.

However, the prime minister said that a design competition would influence architects and engineers to offer more affordable models than the block-and-steel homes that many Jamaicans prefer.

Holness said he would give details on the design competition next week.

In a Jamaica STAR story published on July 28, the national director for the Government’s New Social Housing Programme defended the $5.9-million price tag for a one-bedroom house that was recently constructed by the state entity for an 88-year-old amputee in Bogue district, St Elizabeth, on July 17.

“I’ve seen some of the comments on social media, and quite frankly, I know the cost of [the] building. The alarm may be from persons who are not really familiar with the cost of building. A one-bedroom house with a living and kitchen area can cost you $6 million,” Walker told The Gleaner.

Holness, however, admitted that the cost may have been a little too high.

“I have seen where there are some complaints regarding the cost of the units, and I, too, when we started to turn this vision into a plan, we, too, recognised that this unit was a little pricey. But we had reflected, you know. What is it that we are trying to do and as a Government can we do substandard? We have to follow the rules, and I believe we have done so,” he said.

According to the prime minister, a two-bedroom house will cost in the region of $9 million to $10 million, and those units constructed under the HOPE programme, he concluded, would come out at the same price and with more amenities.

Another of the recipients, visually impaired 30-year-old Kemoy Thomas, was presented with a new two-bedroom house built at a cost of $7.5 million.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com