Sun | Aug 19, 2018

NHT should fund squatter overhaul

Published:Saturday | April 9, 2016 | 12:01 AM

NHT should fund squatter overhaul

O. Dave Allen

The Community Organizations for Management and Sustainable

Montego Bay, St James

The Community Organisations for Management and Sustainable Development (COMAND) cannot support the recommendation made by Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) president, Warren McDonald, that people who will never be able to access mortgages from the National Housing Trust (NHT) should have their annual contribution refund fed into their National Insurance Scheme (NIS) accounts instead of returned to them.

COMAND insists that the National House Trust should maintain is core function, enshrined under the NHT Act, which is to provide housing solutions to the Jamaica people.

Ownership of land and house must be part of the social engineering to promote greater equity in the society, ergo responsible citizenry, and is fundamental in altering the inherited economic architecture.

Alternately, we wish to reiterate our position that the NHT should set aside 20 per cent of its annual budget as a dedicated mortgage fund to community-development associations representing the more that 130 informal communities throughout Jamaica and where their members are qualified contributors to the NHT, to facilitate the development of basic infrastructure.

COMAND supports The Gleaner's editorial from as far back as December 2014 suggesting that the NHT should use its resources "to underwrite/subsidise the cost of infrastructure - which is the major cost of real-estate development - so as to help to deliver more affordable shelter to Jamaicans".

More than half a million of the NHT's contributors can't afford to buy the houses on the open market in Jamaica. Sixty per cent of NHT contributors who fall in this bracket are, even with one per cent mortgages, effectively excluded from the formal real-estate market.

It is a national disgrace that, according to de facto Minister of Housing Dr Horace Chang, some 900,000 Jamaicans are living in squatter settlements that are without proper roads, adequate domestic water supply, sewage-disposal systems and access to municipal services.

Within these so-called squatter and gully bank communities is discarded potential capable of contributing towards national development and growth that has eluded the formal private sector.

That is why, since 1997, COMAND has been advocating for the creation of an alternative, bottom-up-driven economic growth model for Jamaica that would revitalise idle assets and resources, especially in depressed communities islandwide, and to integrate housing into a broader development programme at the community level, creating a ladder of opportunity for marginalised households to participate in community-driven economic activity

Many of these working poor must find refuge in these informal communities, many of which are situated in the growth corridors of Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Negril and lower St Andrew.

With the degradation of the environment and the negative impacts poor sanitation and infrastructure have occasioned, this is beginning to undermine the economic sustainability of the tourism product itself. The situation has gone beyond simple palliatives. It is a crisis that must be managed with urgency from a multisectoral perspective to bring short-, medium- and long-term results with a clear vision and strategy.