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Spanish Town bypassed by housing boom, Crime depresses demand, property values

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Avia Collinder, Business Writer

There are beautiful sites in Spanish Town, including the Rodney Memorial that so entrances this young cyclist, but the ravages of crime have taken their toll on real-estate investments. - File

While new housing developments are going up along the Highway 2000 corridor of St Catherine in response to what is being described as brisk demand for homes with a below-$10 million price tag, buyers have been shunning the Old Capital, where a reputation for crime and violence has depressed real-estate values.

Now, businesses are also said to be moving out, prompting realtors to call for greater urban renewal and crime-reduction initiatives to boost housing stock and commercial services for those in search of affordable accommodation in the environs of Spanish Town.

Property values down

President of Realtors International Limited, Don Glanville, says that in 2010, as housing inventory in Kingston shrinks, the growth area for residential and other develop-ments will move westwards, but will exclude Spanish Town.

Property values have been shrunk by crime by anywhere between 20 and 40 per cent, according to Edwin Wint,the president of the Realtors Association of Jamaica and chairman of La Maison Property Services Limited.

"Previously, thriving commercial establishments have been known to close down operations and are unable to sell their buildings as there are no purchasers," Wint said.

"A similar facility, say within a radius of three miles outside of the town, could fetch up to 30 per cent higher on the selling price obtainable within the town, but this is highly dependent on its location."

Pauline Brown, realtor with Century 21 Heave Ho Properties, says that with the upsurge of crime and violence, there is now a stigma attached to the town.

The view is entrenched that Spanish Town is unsafe and undesirable, she said, and is affecting even the middle-class neighbourhoods on the town's edge.

"A five-bedroom-four-bathroom home in Green Acres was listed at $14 million, and afterthreemonths of extensive marketing, it was sold for only $12.8 million," Brown told Sunday Business.

A similar property in comparable neighbourhood Hope Pastures in St Andrew, it is said, could easily fetch between $20 million and $30 million; and in Havendale, about $18 million to $20 million.

"Properties in areas like Angels, Ensom City, Green Acres, Sydenham Villas will sell, but sometimes for less than they are valued due to the low demand which is greatly affected by the crime problem in nearby communities and the stigma attached to Spanish Town," Brown said.

But real-estate agents do not all agree on the extent of the 'crime effect' on the satellite communities.

"Angels has been appreciating in value quite well, and Green Acres and Ensom also to a fair degree. The sad truth is that the spectre of crime has negatively affected property values and to an extent, commerce in the Spanish Town business district," said Wint, who is also the owner and operator of La Maison Property Services.

But, Brown holds to the view that the negative perception is shared.

demand and supply

"The price point for Spanish Town and environs is lower, as the demand for these properties is less," she said.

"Pricing will be a reflection of the basic fundamentals of demand and supply - the less the demand the lower the price."

One thing the real-estate people agree on: the reduction of the problems afflicting the town would have a positive impact on the market.

"Land is a scarce commodity. Most of the flat land in Kingston has been used up in the last 40 years. Urban renewal in this and nearby areas is the only answer," Glanville said.