Current Affairs

Current Affairs




New style housing plan to start in West Kgn
Patterson says new housing projects are not garrisons
Observer Report
Wednesday, April 30, 2003



PATTERSON... programme aimed at transforming inner-city areas into attractive and sustainable neighbourhoods

PRIME Minister P J Patterson confirmed yesterday that a three-year, $5-billion assault on poor inner-city housing, being led by the National Housing Trust (NHT), will start in Kingston's tough west end, including substantial swathes of the constituency represented by Opposition Leader Edward Seaga.

Patterson did not specifically identify constituencies when he spoke about the project in his contribution to the budget debate, but named among the places for which the NHT board has already approved upgrading projects:

* apartment blocks on Bustamante Highway;

* apartment blocks on Seaga Boulevard;

* apartment blocks in Lizard Town; and

* housing units on Greenwich Street, Race Course Lane, Water Street and Albert Street in Denham Town.

All these communities are in Seaga's West Kingston constituency, including some in his fiercely loyal enclave of Tivoli Gardens.

The other early beneficiary of the project will be the West Central St Andrew constituency of popular ruling People's National Party vice-president and local government minister, Portia Simpson Miller.

Slum apartments on Payne Avenue in Majestic Gardens and in Federal Gardens in that constituency have also been targeted for early work under the project, in which the NHT, using a model it explored in Malaysia, hopes to develop low-cost, high-quality homes with substantial amenities for residents.

Patterson, in keeping with the signal that was sent early by NHT chairman Kingsley Thomas, said that this project will mark a fundamental shift from past government-led housing projects in inner-city communities, where homes were largely allocated according to political persuasion, leading to the development of what Jamaicans notoriously refer to as garrison communities.

"I want to make it clear that I am not building garrisons, neither social nor political," Patterson said.

Patterson did not address why the project would substantially start in West Kingston, but political sources had earlier indicated that Thomas had wanted to begin in Seaga's constituency to lift the scheme above partisan political debate and ensure Opposition support.

Under this redevelopment plan, in which the NHT projects to build 3,000 homes over three years in Kingston, St Catherine and Westmoreland, Thomas expects to deliver a 650 square-foot, three-bedroom apartment for about $1.2 million, about the same price at which the NHT has, up to recently, delivered 266 square-foot quads.

The NHT has already gone to tender for partners on the homes, with the core units being four-storey walk-up apartment blocks, with each block containing 48 residents.

But unlike the housing they will replace, these complexes will have green areas, playgrounds, hard courts and in some communities, swimming pools.

The NHT expects to spend $3 billion on the basic apartments over the three-year period, but Patterson disclosed yesterday that another $1.5 billion will go towards social and physical infrastructure in existing and new communities and another $500 million on upgrading existing inner-city communities.

"The aim of the inner-city renewal programme is to transform inner-city areas into attractive and sustainable neighbourhoods through a combination of new housing and the refurbishment of existing housing stock," the prime minister told Parliament. "The challenge is to balance the provision of adequate space with affordability."

In concert with the development of the new communities, the prime minister said, there will be training to prepare residents "to accept their responsibilities, inculcating a set of values and attitudes to ensure harmonious living".

Patterson said that he would ensure that there was value for money with these developments and was adamant that protection rackets -- common on inner-city construction sites -- would not be entertained, even if he had to send out the army.

"I will not allow one red cent of extortion payments," the prime minister declared. "To those who may be so inclined, I say forget it. If I have to bring the army out, we will be ready to deal with you."