Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Urban renewal scheme - PM outlines $multi-billion housing programme
Jamaica Gleaner
published: Wednesday | April 30, 2003

By Vernon Daley, Staff Reporter

Prime Minister P.J. Patterson making his contribution yesterday to the 2003/2004 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives. - Rudolph Brown/Staff Photographer

PRIME MINISTER P.J. Patterson announced a multi-billion dollar urban renewal programme yesterday but he insisted that he had no plans to create political or social "garrisons" through it.

Speaking in the 2003/2004 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister outlined a $5-billion plan to create 3,000 new low-income dwellings in Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Catherine and Westmoreland over the next three years. Several existing inner-city areas will also be upgraded under the programme.

Also, he announced a $200-million companion programme to construct houses for 2,000 "very needy" families in rural areas.

However, in a preemptive strike against anticipated criticism, the Prime Minister moved swiftly to assure the nation that the programme was not designed to give the Government any political advantage.

"I am mot engaged in the building of any garrisons," he said in his two-hour presentation. "It is time for people...irrespective of their political affiliation, to live together."

Garrisons are political constituencies that are fiercely loyal to either the governing People's National Party or the opposition Jamaica Labour Party and vote overwhelmingly for either in national elections. Most of the garrisons are concentrated in the Corporate Area of Kingston and St. Andrew and in St. Catherine and are largely aligned to the governing party.

The Government's inner-city plan is aimed at transforming decrepit inner-city neighbourhoods and making them decent communities for their residents. The low-cost housing model, which has been adopted from Malaysia under a technical agreement, has been modified to meet Jamaica's national building

code. Mr. Patterson disclosed that the core unit would be a four-storey walk-up structure containing three bedrooms and a living room area. Also, there would be a two-bedroom unit for a smaller family. Each block will contain 48 residences.

The Prime Minister added that the housing blocks would have green areas, safe playgrounds, sporting facilities and even swimming pools in some of the communities.

"All the various studies reviewed point to the need to provide adequate open spaces for recreation and relaxation in communities with high densities. The absence of these spaces normally gives rise to anti-social behaviour," the Prime Minister said.

Under the programme, which is being funded by the National Housing Trust (NHT) and carried out by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), residents of targeted communities will be trained to accept responsibilities and will be inculcated with a set of values and attitudes to ensure harmonious living, the Prime Minister said.

About $2 billion of the $5 billion budgeted for the programme will be used to carry out major work on existing housing stock in the following Corporate Area communities: Federal Gardens, Payne Avenue, Majesty Gardens, Bustamante Highway, Seaga Boulevard, Java, Lizard Town, Denham Town, Greenwich Street, Race Course Lane, Water Street and Albert Street.

Mr. Patterson said he would be insisting on value for money under the programme and he warned extortionists that they would not be allowed to prey on contractors.

Said the Prime Minister: "I will not allow one red cent of extortion payment. To those who may be so inclined, I say, 'Forget it'!"