Craft credible housing policy
THE EDITOR, Sir:
It is interesting to observe how the Outameni debacle has sparked a discussion on housing solutions. Jamaica has a housing problem that has been ignored by successive governments. A socialist programme such as the National Housing Trust (NHT) has failed to deliver housing to low-income earners and has no solution for 'no-income/some-income earners'.
Many of us would support the Government raiding - or borrowing - from the NHT to build low-income housing. Sadly, the political party that has ruled the country for the majority of the past 42 years and who gave us the NHT has failed to put its money where its mouth is. The failure of Michael Manley goes well beyond the 1970s and stands out more clearly with the current crop of Comrades.
The NHT is "entrusted with the mission of increasing and enhancing the stock of available housing ... to the neediest contributors ...". The mission of the NHT excludes too many of our citizens. How active is the NHT in expanding its list of contributors?
The Government has to take up the slack and ensure that each of our citizens be given consideration for housing solutions. None must be forgotten. We can take a page from the South African Housing Policy, which spreads housing solutions across a wider economic base beyond low-income solutions.
South Africa has a significant shortage of housing for the poor, but is delivering hundreds of homes annually through active government participation. While we may frown on the Rural Development Programme in South Africa, it offers hope for the very poor who are living in informal settlements.
Before we start solving our affordable housing problem, we may need to debate some cultural and political issues that stand in the way of workable solutions. An urban solution is perhaps difficult based on our political propensity to garrisonise the poor. Further, we have to look at the affordability of all building material and stop being stuck on the idea that 'block house stronger'.
Go to Black River and see all the beautiful board Victorian homes that have stood for well over a hundred years. Likewise, the size of the home must fit the income, and we should not expect the Government to build mansions.