Mixed communities policy needed - Earl Samuels
Barbara Peart, a Jamaican living in the United States, visits the island up to three times each year with her retired husband.
However, as Mrs Peart nears retirement, the couple has been entertaining the thought of returning permanently to Jamaica.
"I'd really love to retire here, and visit over there instead," Mrs Peart stated, raising her concern at a session about housing and services at the recently held Sixth Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference in Montego Bay, St James.
But, often, when she considers the move, one concern races through her mind over and over. Her retired husband isn't in the best of health and she is concerned that he may not receive adequate medical care if they make the decision to live in Jamaica. Her apprehension is based on the distance from their home to a public hospital and the general state of resources in the country's medical system.
That is an area of concern which Earl Samuels, assistant general manager with responsibility for finance and mortgage operations at the Jamaica National Building Society, believes warrants reviving national discussions about creating policies that can encourage the establishment of mixed communities.
"That concept is still on the drawing board and we need to lobby Government to develop it," said Samuels, one of the country's leading authorities on housing development.
He explained that mixed communities or mixed real estate development is an approach which takes into account zoned areas, which are developed with a combination of residential housing, commercial and quasi-governmental activity; and, to some extent, industrial activity.
These communities provide
certain benefits for residents such as greater housing variety and
Mixed communities also reduce the distance people have to travel from home to work and to access goods and services. According to Samuels, the concept is not a new one and is the approach used in many urban areas in developed countries.
The model already exists in some measure in parts of Jamaica. Samuels posited, however, that there is need for policies to improve standards and treat with growing urban developmental challenges resulting from unplanned housing.
Need highlighted years ago
He said the need for policy isn't a new recommendation either as it had been highlighted in a study done among members of the diaspora community some years ago.
It is an approach which
private developers Richmond Development Company endorses and has implemented in its St Ann-based real estate development. The company is now in the process of adding a medical centre to its amenities, which already provides access to certain recreational, office and store facilities, including a recently completed supermarket.
"What we are hoping to do is have offices for good general medical practitioners, a diagnostic centre and speciality facilities. It won't be as large as a hospital, but where you can receive quality initial care before you need to go to a hospital," said F. Steve Bennett, manager of Richmond Development Company.