The Ministry of Transport, Works & Housing is reporting that the housing programme which is being implemented in collaboration with Food for the Poor is being fast tracked in three parishes consequent on the passage of Hurricane ‘Sandy’.

Parishes in the eastern end of the island, particularly Portland, St. Mary and St. Thomas, where the hurricane hit hardest, will receive the majority of the assistance. The original Agreement between the Ministry and Food for the Poor had stipulated that approximately 1,260 wooden houses would be constructed and distributed freely in the 63 constituencies (20 per constituency) throughout the island over a 12 month period. With the passage of ‘Sandy’, the worst affected parishes will now have their quota fast tracked to be built almost immediately. Notwithstanding this particular arrangement though, the commitment is being given that assistance will be given to the occupants of the over 400 units that were damaged in the hurricane.   

According to Dr. Morais Guy, Minister without portfolio in charge of Housing, with the passage of Hurricane ‘Sandy’, resources will now have to be re-allocated to accommodate the immediate construction of these houses. Continuing, he said, “We have seen the disaster wrought by the hurricane in these parishes and as a responsible government, we have to respond to the plight of affected persons in a timely manner.” He noted however that there are some challenges being faced in handling the fast tracking of the programme. Among them is the fact that persons may have to be re-located, especially those who were previously living in areas prone to disasters. In this regard, he said that the government may have to identify lands to accommodate such persons.

Another challenge relates to the fact that persons identified to receive such houses, are required to furnish evidence of ownership or have legal access to lands. In the majority of cases however, persons have not been able to do so. The government is exploring options with a view to addressing this particular challenge.

The Programme which sees the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) and Petro Caribe as partners will also now benefit from the assistance of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) which will focus on accelerating the initiative.