Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Letter of the Day | Poverty of imagination, or ruling-class contempt?

Published:Thursday | May 12, 2016 | 5:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I am bitterly disappointed, and even angry at Capri's suggestion that the only way that the National Housing Trust (NHT) can help poorer Jamaicans is through subsidised rents. The tenants still live in houses (of some sort) which have been built, or need to be built. So why is it that the poor themselves cannot be owners of the same properties? Do they not deserve to own decent housing that would help to make their children turn out healthy and smart, eventually cutting crime to a minimum and making Jamaica what Vision 2030 suggests is possible?

The ruling class still blaming the poor for being poor, so despising them that any help would be seen as pandering to what are seen as negative behaviours. It reminds me of how orphans (and others) were treated in Britain until a little more than 100 years ago, treated as vermin, and how our own Jamaicans were treated until 1838, or should that be 1938, or 2010 (Tivoli)?

Food for the Poor and Habitat for Humanity have been offering low-cost housing solutions for years, and so did Operation Pride with its one-room starter homes, many of which have grown into proud semi-mansions. I've just been checking through a Google search on low cost housing solutions, and there are ideas in abundance.

Land is not the problem. It is available not only in rural areas where land is in abundance, especially carefully-concealed government lands but also in Kingston where there are large open areas in some places and many, many derelict lots which could be cleared for housing. The NHT has ample funds to put in the necessary infrastructure whilst the government land itself (some taken from delinquent private owners) should, given our African heritage, be provided free for proven need and agreed use.

And then gift each poor family with a half-million dollar tied perpetual loan at zero interest rate, providing intergenerational payack, and no eviction if payback does not happen. Pride and the desire for self-respect would make many pay - and remittances might well increase as overseas Jamaicans see their help going to even better use than the admittedly-useful everyday living expenses. Once not paying rent, the one-room starter homes would soon take off, literally

I said all this before when the government illegally stole that $45bn from the NHT, but helping the poor (except in patronising ways) to help themselves will never be on the agenda until we escape from our colonial bondage and respect each and every person in Jamaica. Until we treat everyone as deserving, unlike the treatment given to our disadvantaged and neglected inner-city residents who are massacred when they are forced to turn to illicit providers because the state is absent.

Building houses for the less well-off, with sweat equity where feasible, could not be a better project for Jamaica. Generating jobs galore (simple houses do not need professional developers), generating pride of ownership, better living conditions, better health (physical and mental), better-functioning families, less crime...the list goes on. Andrew, are you listening?

That $45bn stolen from the NHT over the last four years could have provided 90,000 grant loans of half-a-million dollars, in turn housing three or four times that amount of our fellow Jamaicans (not the undeserving poor). Capri, you can do better than to suggest rent subsidies....

Paul Ward

Campaign for Social & Economic Justice

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