Government again defends social housing programme

THE Government is again defending the Administration of its Social Housing Programme for impoverished Jamaicans, which has been rapped for being inefficient.

On several occasions, the Opposition has heavily criticised the Government for the unsustainability of the programme where single houses are being handed over instead of housing schemes being built.

Houses are provided under the New Social Housing Programme operating out of the Office of the Prime Minister; and the indigent housing programme run by the Ministry of Local Government and community development.

Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding, in a particularly scathing comment recently, rapped the Government for the inefficiency with which it undertakes the social programme.

“We see the prime minister going around the country to make a big deal over handing over one house here and one house there. He came to my constituency to Hopeful Village and handed over one house and it was a house that cost over $9 million to build. One person got the benefit of that house when hundreds and thousands have got nothing…That is not a sustainable way to approach the national project of upliftment for our people,” Golding said.

On Thursday, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister Floyd Green used the occasion of handing over indigent housing to two recipients in Central Kingston to again defend the Government’s social housing programme.

“When I hear some of them run up and down and talk about house and one-one house, you know what I realise? They are disconnected from Jamaica. They don’t appreciate people because a house is not [just] a house, a house is about the people that are benefiting from the structure that you have put in place,” he said.

He said 98 houses have already been completed under the Social Housing Programme and that 50 houses are now in construction. “That is helping over 500 Jamaicans right across [the country],” he said.

“So dem can talk bout house. Mi come from country and dem say ‘one one coco full basket’ and under the [Jamaica] Labour Party, your basket will full and will run over,” he said.

Green further argued that continuing to hand over houses to indigent Jamaicans, “is testament that this Government is not about talk; this Government is about action. We don’t just announce and leave, we come back to cut the ribbon and dem nuh like when we cut the ribbon, but if yuh nevah do di work, you couldn’t cut the ribbon.”

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie also staunchly defended the Government’s programme, noting that the Administration is committed to providing housing for needy Jamaicans regardless of their political affiliation.

“In the Corporate Area alone, we have constructed more than 40 units in Kingston and St Andrew…In the leader of Opposition’s constituency, there are five houses that are slated to be built over the next couple of months,” he said.

“There are some persons who are critical, talking about all we’re doing is going around and handing over one house. It’s better we hand over one more than don’t hand over none at all. It is not the impact of the one house that matters, it is what the one house has to support. Because there are families that don’t have a fraction of one that is grateful for whatever they get,” he added.

McKenzie said that the Government will not “be deterred by any silly criticisms about our policies. It is our responsibility as Government to respond to the social needs of areas such as South Side [Central Kingston] and other communities right across the country”.

Julia Rogers, who resides at 27 Fleet Street, and Maxine Cross, who lives at 29 Barry Street, were the recipients of the two social housing units provided through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.

The two matriarchs, who have been occupying these locations in the Kingston Central constituency for a combined 40 years, previously lived in unfavourable conditions.

The new units were constructed from reinforced concrete and comprise two bedrooms, living room, dining room, bathroom and kitchen.

McKenzie said more funding has been secured for an additional three houses for the area, at the relentless behest of Member of Parliament for Kingston Central Donovan Williams.

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