Transport, Works & Housing Minister Dr. Omar Davies addressed the latest staging of the Caribbean Association of Housing Financial Institutions Conference held at the Pegasus Hotel on Monday, October 6, 2014. The Conference which was held under the theme “Transforming Communities Through Housing and Economic Development” saw presentations from a number of stakeholders from Jamaica and elsewhere in the region.

In addressing the conference, Minister Davies noted that though the traditional approach to housing financing still bore relevance, the reality is that the macro-economic challenges which are faced in Jamaica currently and which will be faced over the medium term have determined the parameters of an environment which must radically adjust to policies which are adopted.

In speaking to the role of the State in the development of housing solutions for the different socio-economic brackets, the Minister said, “It should be stated from the outset that this role will vary for different socio-economic groups in society. The reality is that for the high and middle income households, the main responsibility of the State is to provide a legal and regulatory framework within which the demand for housing units will be addressed. In terms of lower middle income individual/householders, there is a clear and important role for the State. In Jamaica, the role of the National Housing Trust (NHT) looms large. This Institution, supported by the Building Societies, provides focus to private builders in terms of the type, location and cost for which they can almost guarantee a certain level of demand.”

Those at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder also came in for mention from the Minister also. In addressing their case, he said, “…I would suggest that, at this point in time, greatest emphasis must be placed on the needs of those at the bottom of the economic ladder. Reference is being made to households consisting of employed low-wage individuals, those who are marginally employed and the unemployed. In summary, we are speaking of a group of households whose income levels do not permit them to demonstrate economic demand for the most basic housing unit, constructed using traditional building methods,” he said.

Minister Davies also zoomed in on some of the myriad challenges that beset the housing sector. He noted that the approach to addressing these should be multi-faceted but logically depend on State-led initiatives. Continuing, he said, “In fact, it was the recognition of the growing crisis, occasioned by the increasing number of lower income households which were unable to afford the most basic housing unit, produced in the traditional manner which led to the establishment of the PRIDE schemes.” In terms of solutions, the Housing Minister said that it was the intention of the Ministry (of Housing) to execute a thorough re-assessment of the programme “as it presents the only realistic option available for tackling the problem of an increasing percentage of households being forced to develop informal, unregulated approaches to meet their housing needs.” Among the possible solutions the Minister identified was ‘a revamped version of the PRIDE Initiative whereby the State utilises the asset of land to facilitate the re-development and formalisation of informal settlements into structured, regulated communities.”