Tue | Mar 28, 2017

Inadequate physical planning squeezing Jamaica's communities

Published:Tuesday | March 7, 2017 | 3:00 AMClaudia Gardner

WESTERN BUREAU:

Several publications, including Vision 2030, Jamaica's National Plan for Sustainable Development which was spearheaded by the Planning Institute of Jamaica, have stated that urban and rural development physical planning approaches employed in Jamaica have been inadequate.

"We acknowledge that poor spatial planning in the past has resulted in various problems as is evidenced by rundown town centres, urban sprawl, environmental degradation, unsafe and dilapidated housing, planned and unplanned development in ecologically sensitive areas, crime and disorder, rural-urban migration, and poverty," it said.

A recent article published by the International Federation for Housing and Planning also noted that Jamaica's housing problem reflects the challenges of urbanisation and uncontrolled development, and mirrors the housing problems of other developing countries.

The organisation noted that with an urbanisation rate of 54 per cent, and 20 per cent of total population squatting in over 700 informal settlements, national and local authorities in Jamaica face a serious development problem.

"Research undertaken for the National Housing Policy in 2008 revealed that 15,000 new units are required annually up to 2030 to clear the backlog," the article noted. "However, between 1980 and 2012, the average annual production of housing stood at 4,456 in the formal sector.

"Meanwhile, the gap between supply and demand continues to widen despite attempts by successive governments to make more lands available for housing and repeated changes to housing finance by the National Housing Trust and major housing finance institutions... Private sector housing finance institutions serve primarily the top 30 per cent of income earners," it said.

It added: "All these factors have contributed to the urban sprawl and increased incidence of squatting that has characterised all major towns in Jamaica.

Informal settlements have been proliferating and pose serious threats to sensitive environments. While policies have been lacking to cauterise the spread, persons have continued to capture lands, most of which are owned by the State and establish housing."

The article said the state has "failed to create a truly enabling environment to attract and stimulate greater private sector participation especially in the low-income segment of the housing market and has been unable to widen the housing sector to include other actors and providers of housing such as community associations and provident societies and non-governmental organisations".