‘Not for us’

SEVERAL residents of the St Andrew South Western constituency on Wednesday expressed disappointment with the plans for the Howard Apartments project in their community, where 248 studio apartments are expected to be constructed by October 2024.

At the ground-breaking ceremony to mark the $2.4-billion development being done in partnership with Centauri Real Estate Company and National Housing Trust (NHT), under its Guaranteed Purchase Programme (GPP), Howard Avenue residents were concerned that the one-bedroom units had no space for expansion and could not accomodate their extended families.

“It should be bigger. They are too small. Those are only suitable for people weh live alone, not those wid children. I couldn’t tek one because I have mi grandkids dem and it would hold us,” said one resident.

Another resident, Camieshia Haricha, had a similar concern.

“Dem good but not for us. One-bedroom cyaan work, we have all 10 pickney and we cyaan add on. Yuh mad? Dem ya affi rich people, nuh fi we. The house dem coulda all sell already and dem nuh mek yet. We not even know if dem a give we a chance fi buy,” she said.

While another resident who has been there for 40 years added, “It would alright for me as a single person but for a person with four or five children, there’s no privacy or anything like that. It wouldn’t work. If is even to buy and rent it,” she said.

A mother of four who only gave her name as Monifa, noted that she would be grateful for one of the units to house her and her children.

“It alright because it uplifting the place, mi wa try find a way fi get one. It will work but dem a look pon the fact seh a one-bedroom but nuh look pon that, that is just a start. Nuh badda watch the whole heep a kids,” she said.

“Me want it, a long time me a try look one and if a one-bedroom me alright with that. My pickney dem can come get it, mek the four of dem share it with me until dem can branch off on their own,” she added.

Further, Member of Parliament for St Andrew South Western Dr Angela Brown Burke also expressed the concern from residents regarding the studio apartments.

“Many of the residents are very interested and many of them are already NHT contributors. When you come to areas like these there are people here who are ready to purchase. There are very few families that when the child gets a big work and start to earn a decent living they go and buy a one-bedroom, or a studio and as life progresses, when they get a wife or husband, they can stay there,” she said.

“As the children come, they sell that and buy a better house. But many of them looking for a little opportunity and so they really like the ones they can buy and expand a bit and they prefer those where the family can come,” she added.

Brown Burke stressed that while she and the residents are grateful for the 248 studio apartments, she is urging that there be consideration for developing bigger houses.

“Since we are talking to policymakers and drivers and shakers, we have to also make sure to describe the reality that as we go forward we will also see some of those houses that they can buy knowing that the next five or 10 years they will still be okay. They asked if it was designed for another set of Jamaicans because ‘Weh we a do with the one bedroom?’ I am encouraging them to make the investments.”

In responding to Brown Burke, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said despite the Government’s efforts to develop a controlled housing market, houses cannot be provided for every individual in Jamaica.

According to Holness, the demand for houses considerably exceeds the supply in the country, due to a limited amount of available, developable land and local housing developers to take on enterprise-scale housing developments.

“We are not able to provide a home for every household that is now currently seeking a home. We have a deficit in the current housing demand and we have a deficit in future housing demand,” said Holness. “We need to get to the point where our housing market supported by the NHT, Ministry of Housing and the Housing Agency of Jamaica, can adequately plan and provide a housing solution for every existing household and housing solutions for households to come.”

In the meantime, Holness urged more local developers to get involved in the NHT’s programme.

“We are hoping that more developers will come on stream with the GPP. We want more Jamaican developers to come in because I know developers are sceptical of the programme because it locks off the ability to gain on the appreciation after the units are built but that is not going to help the people on the units. We want the developers to come in and maximise on the efficiency on construction, so that the people of the country can get units at the affordable prices,” he said.

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