Fri | Nov 22, 2019

Hanover councillors cautious about HOPE programme roll-out

Published:Friday | November 8, 2019 | 12:28 AMBryan Miller/Gleaner Writer
Sherdon Samuels, mayor of Lucea.
Sherdon Samuels, mayor of Lucea.

Western Bureau:

Councillors of the Hanover Municipal Corporation (HMC) are disgruntled with how the Housing, Opportunities, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme is being rolled out in the parish.

The HOPE programme is being implemented by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.

Following a presentation by Barry Morgan from the HOPE directorate and Edward Kelly from the Montego Bay regional office to the councillors at a meeting at the HMC on Tuesday, the municipal representatives raised concerns that they had not been included in the selection of the projects, a ­privilege accorded only to ­members of parliament.

Lucea’s Mayor, Sheridan Samuels, argued that the ­programme was being introduced at a time when the corporation is struggling to get a handle on the housing situation in the parish.

“The corporation is now ­waging an ongoing war against illegal construction and squatting in the parish, and the corporation is now being informed that ­agencies are in the process of encouraging the problem by assisting in the ­construction of houses on captured lands,” stated Samuels.

However, according to Morgan, the HOPE project involves the ­construction of concrete houses on lands owned by the recipients, who are in need of proper housing.

“In this programme, priority goes to the really indigent and needy. There is a special committee in place to double-check all applications to make sure the benefits go to the right people,” said Morgan.

“There are two sides to the ­programme: we provide ­indigent housing, and the allocation includes one tenement yard per constituency that the MP can select for rehabilitation or total ­reconstruction,” added Morgan, who noted that MPs could also ­identify five houses per ­constituency for rehabilitation benefits under the programme.

When the Esher Tenement and Pumpkin Bottom ­communities were highlighted as the ­communities to receive help under HOPE, councillors raised objections, claiming that the areas were not worthy to be so chosen based on the classification outlined.

When asked to provide a list of the names of persons who were slated to get benefits under the HOPE programme, Morgan said he could not facilitate the request. “I am not keen on losing my work, so I will have to find out if I can release that list,” said Morgan.

However, the mayor was in no mood to accept the programme according to the implementation plan, intimating that it had a ­political overtone.