St Catherine residents get land titles
“I feel like I’ve won the lottery,” said 45-year-old Zachariah Oakley, after receiving a registered title to the plot of land that he has been living on since birth in Church Pen, St Catherine.
Oakley is among 128 residents of the parish who are now proud landowners, having received certificates of title for property that they have occupied for several years.
The residents are from the communities of Old Harbour, Church Pen, Sharper’s Lane, Thompson Pen, Bushy Park and Old Harbour Bay.
The titles, provided under the National Land Agency (NLA) Systematic Land Registration (SLR) Programme, were handed over by a team led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during a recent ceremony held at the Old Harbour New Testament Church of God in Rhoden’s Pen.
Oakley told JIS News that he had been trying for several years to acquire a title for the property, and thanked the Government for making his dream a reality.
“I have been trying to process it for about nine years. This programme that the Government has set up has made it so easy. Since they started, it’s like only three months and I get through with something that I have been trying to get through for years. So I actually feel like I’ve won the lottery,” he said.
“I’m 45 now and I basically grow up there. We’ve maintained the property, so it still looks modern and up-to-date. It’s moving with the times,” Oakley shared with a chuckle.
Sixty-six-year-old Ena Foga, who also resides in Church Pen, was overcome with joy when she was presented with her land title.
“Me feel good and mi a seh, bwoy, mi thank God mi father did lef something fi mi. Thank God me own a piece a land,” she said.
Foga noted that she had long wanted to begin the process of land ownership and was grateful for the NLA programme.
“Me a wonda all the while and a seh how me aguh look about it, until the (National) Land Agency come in now and survey it,” she shared, noting that she was thankful to finally obtain the documents for the property.
Seventy-three-year-old Sarah Reid, who also lives on a property in Church Pen with her extended family, told JIS News, “We give God thanks to know that we have our own title.”
Through the SLR programme, people who have been in open, undisturbed, and undisputed possession of land for 12 years or more are afforded the opportunity to obtain titles for these lands.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the Government is actively pursuing programmes to provide more land and shelter solutions for Jamaicans.
He said that these programmes will allow more people to be a part of a “formal regulated settlement”, thereby improving their and their families’ standard of living.
“The Government is not unaware or unsympathetic to the genuine concerns of people trying to find a housing solution for themselves, but it is not a solution to the problem to go and illegally settle. It just exacerbates and compounds the problem,” he pointed out.
The prime minister said the SLR programme seeks to scale up land registration to support the country’s aim of extending the benefits of recognised property rights to more Jamaicans.
Chief executive officer of the NLA and commissioner of lands, Cheriese Walcott, said the agency remains committed to helping Jamaicans secure property rights through the implementation of an efficient land-registration system.
Walcott said that prioritising the preservation of land rights will establish a firm foundation for sustainable growth, assist in reducing poverty and boost shared prosperity among citizens.
She indicated that people who have applied for titles under the SLR programme are expected to receive their titles during this year.