Sun | Apr 2, 2023

Holness calls for informal settlers to get lands registered

Published:Thursday | February 9, 2023 | 12:20 AMTamara Bailey/ Gleaner Writer

With approximately 350, 000 parcels of unregistered land in Jamaica, according to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, there remains a great need for individuals to legitimise ownership and help put an end to the culture of informal settling.

“There is sometimes a confusion in the mind of Jamaicans that if you are paying property tax, you are likely or could be the owner of the land. But these are two separate things and that of course has been part of the chaos in land settlement and land administration in Jamaica.”

He said the level of informal settlement practised by many Jamaicans often gives rise to disputes, which can result in domestic violence, as has been the case in the parish in recent times.

“When you get lands registered in the formal setting, no one can come and throw you off your land. It anchors you there once your name appears on that title and the Government backs you as the owner,”

He said part of the Government’s efforts to encourage legitimate practices is making sure titles are now more fraud proof.

Holness was speaking at the National Land Agency’s (NLA) Systematic Land Registration and Titling ceremony in New Forest in the parish, where 20 persons received their titles with an additional 80 persons completing the process for title receipt later that day.

According to senior director of the Adjudication Service Division, NLA Shalise Porteous, the programme assists landowners who have been in open, undisturbed and undisputed possession of their land for 12 years or more to claim ownership of such land. Its objective, since the launch in 2021, has been to issue 20,000 titles in three years.

Chief executive officer and Commissioner of Lands Cheriese Walcott said that since January 21, over 7000 titles have been issued under the programme.

Additionally, under the programme, 235 communities have been declared as systematic adjudication areas in the parishes of St Catherine, Manchester and St Elizabeth, with 11 land settlement areas declared across the parishes of Westmoreland, Manchester, St Elizabeth, Clarendon, St James, Hanover and Trelawny.

Meanwhile, Holness said there will be amendments to the Registration of Titles Act to ensure greater efficiency and introduce electronic titles, and the Land Surveyors Act to address the certification process and the shortage of professionals.

“The training process for land surveyors has to be broadened and the certification process has to be expedited. And we are now looking at legislation to deal with both ... Technology has advanced so far that drone technology, satellite technologies work quite efficiently in geomapping that we now must contemplate seriously amending the legislation to use the technology to speed up the titling process.”

He said while formal systems are often viewed as costly, overly bureaucratic, time-consuming and disadvantageous, causing many to evade it, the impending enforcement of various regulatory frameworks will ensure that individuals are within legal bounds to occupy a space.