Sat | Sep 23, 2023

Letter of the Day | Use housing solutions to create a safer Jamaica

Published:Thursday | January 20, 2022 | 12:06 AM


This is an open letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Honourable Prime Minister, the first month of the year is hardly halved and Jamaica has already recorded over 70 murders. We are not safe. Even when we bar our homes we are unable to sleep. No Jamaicans dare go to bed leaving his/her doors open. I think many Jamaicans find it as a no-brainer the choice between leaving home with a knife or mask. Sir, crime is the real monster, there’s no vaccination against hardened criminals. By the way, I am fully vaccinated.

Mr Prime Minister, Dr Green asked a poignant question in her Gleaner column of January 16, 2022, ‘Does crime and violence mitigation require more ZOSO/SOE or creative housing solutions?’ The evidence is overwhelming. Human development is tied to economic growth, security and overall social health. Basic housing solutions are not simply the provision of shelter, it’s an investment in our people which will pay off in the future.

Jamaica is replete with marginalised informal settlements which are without basic amenities, i.e. water, light, sewerage and access to Internet, as the worthy academic pointed out. In so many instances, these are the breeding grounds for many of our most hardened criminals.

Sir, as a mechanism in providing proper solutions there is also the issue of land regularisation. Many families who live on informal settlements would be able use these properties to access funds for economic projects and home improvements. Do our political class and civil officers take issue with the regularisation of informal communities?

Exactly 20 years ago I approached the then councillor of the Hope division regarding direction on how to pursue regularisation for lands occupied in a certain section of Hope Bay, Portland. He instructed me to have everyone on the property to sign a letter indicating their willingness to purchase these lands and address the letter to Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Tower Isle. A representative from RADA subsequently visited the community and did a recommendation to the land agency for the selling of these lands. Note that some of those have being occupying these lands for over 70 years. I wrote several letters to the land agency, the member of parliament and nothing happened. I subsequently made a visit to the land agency on a couple of occasions. The land agency has still not visited to make an assessment on these lands. Notwithstanding, the land agency a few years ago replied to me that it is not considering selling any lands in the area.

We are ready and willing to finance the cost of the regularisation process through purchase. A check within the division will reveal numerous settlements with the majority of persons wanting to have their communities regularised.

Honourable Prime Minister, an aggressive programme of land regularisation is the economic, social and moral thing to do. Please, I implore you to start with my community.