‘Frog City fed up!’ - Residents losing hope following 14-year wait for housing development
Norman Manley High School towers over the open space where the first phase of a housing development consisting of 200-plus housing units was scheduled to should have started in 2002.
That development was delayed and residents of the depressed community dubbed 'Frog City,' were then told that work would begin in 2007.
Again, there was a delay and the residents of the East Central St Andrew community, were promised that ground would definitely be broken in 2016.
It is not lost on the residents that 2002, 2007, and 2016 were general elections years all during times when the People's National Party (PNP), which they support, formed the government.
Now, 14 years after the first announcement, many residents have all but lost hope that the promised housing development will ever come on stream even though a January 7, 2017 advertisement, placed by the National Housing Trust (NHT), indicated that a contractor was being sought to provide infrastructure work for the scheme.
According to the NHT, "the contractor will be required to undertake infrastructure works consisting of roads, water supply, sewerage collection and storm water drainage ... ."
The closing date for the bids to be submitted to the NHT was last Wednesday.
"This is news to me. News to us. For as far as we know, this should have started in June 2015. Then it moved to November 2015 and the definitive date was October 2016," said Corey Williams, president of the Community Development Committee in the area.
"Based on the advertisement, there is no way it could have started when they said it would, because all these facilities would have to be in place, before the actual housing development started," added Williams.
He was joined by Brian Martin, president of the interim leadership of the Maxfield Park Committee, who echoed claims that the residents are now "fed up".
The community leaders said as the residents understand the proposal, 200 housing units are to be built to replace the crumbling infrastructure in the area. The lack of proper sanitary facilities is also to be addressed as part of the development.
Martin said the blueprint for the development is being held by the Urban Development Corporation.
According to Martin, the residents were told that based on the space available, only 180-plus units in what is now known as Frog City while the other units would be in proximity to the area.
"Persons were required to contribute voluntarily to the NHT. A special census was done and it showed that of 110 families in Frog City, only 50 were contributing to the Trust.
"You have to understand that it is difficult for some individuals, because they have never worked," said Williams as he argued that the broken promises were among the reasons, persons in the community have given up on the system.
SOME PEOPLE FED UP
"Some people fed up. Not all, but many persons have lost hope. They are no longer waiting. They have now started to put up concrete structures, although they were told not to put them up because they would be demolished when the houses were built.
"The concrete structures are a sign that hope is waning, and confidence is lost," said Williams.
Residents who joined in the discussion said the housing plan has been touted for more than four decades, but hope was revived in 2002, when it was announced in Parliament that work would have started that year.
One resident, 48-year-old Mary Brown*, said she has been hearing about the plan since she was a little girl.
Brown wants to believe it will happen, and hopes it will, but has doubts that it ever will.
"You know how many persons dead and gone since we have been hearing about this. Boy, I just don't know," Brown told The Sunday Gleaner as she pointed out that very little has changed since the last time our news team visited the community four years ago.
The open lot was being used as a public latrine and the air was heavy with the smell of excrement. The smell extended to the school which is named after National Hero Norman Washington Manley.
In the past four years, three additional classrooms have been built at the school, but the plastic (scandal) bags containing human waste still find their way over the wall and on to the school compound.
An informal garage which was in its infancy outside of the school walls four years ago has now expanded and old decrepit vehicles and parts are everywhere.
Sections of the open lot in the community are now used as a dumping ground for old household equipment.
But still Williams and Martin are grateful for some of the work done in the area in recent years.
They praised the Jamaica Social Investment, the NHT and the Social Development Commission for work these entities have done to improve life in the depressed community.
"They have done a lot to provide training opportunities for upliftment, so that individuals can get training and hopefully for gainful employment," stated Martin.
While this is intervention is appreciated the residents still want the houses they have been promised in the constituency which has been represented by the PNP's Dr D.K. Duncan, Arthur Jones and current Member of Parliament Dr Peter Phillips over the last 40 years.