Three consultations on Jamaica’s Draft National Habitat Report were held between May 12 and 16, 2014. The first was held on May 12 in Montego Bay, followed by one in Mandeville on May 14 and the final one in Kingston on May 16.

The consultations which were held under the theme, “Housing and Sustainable Urban Development” saw participation from a wide cross section of stakeholders. These included representatives from NEPA, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of National Security, the UNDP, the NHT, the Ministry of Agriculture among others.

By way of context, the UN General Assembly has decided to convene the 3rd UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development (HABITAT 3) in 2016. As part of the preparations for HABITAT 3, the Government of Jamaica through the Ministry of Transport, Works & Housing established a National Habitat Committee as was done for HABITAT 2 held in Istanbul, Turkey in 1996. A key output of this process is the preparation of a National Report outlining the progress since HABITAT 2, the priority issues, solutions driving positive change and an action plan. The Report will also consider the implementation of the HABITAT 2 Agenda, new challenges, emerging trends and a prospective vision for sustainable human settlements and urban development. HABITAT 2 followed the staging of HABITAT 1 which was held in Vancouver, Canada in 1976.

Speaking at the Kingston consultation, Minister without portfolio with responsibility for Housing, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy said that housing is a ‘basic commodity that not only speaks to status but to one’s dignity as a human being; a dignity that should be afforded to all.’

Continuing, he said, “This year, the Government of Jamaica aims to provide approximately 6,000 housing solutions through the efforts of the NHT, the HAJ and the Sugar Transformation Resettlement Programme within the Ministry of Agriculture. We continue to transform livers by improving the living conditions of our people despite the challenges of an IMF programme and an economy facing several hurdles. We remain steadfast in our push to bolster the housing sector as we know the impact it can have not just in economic outcomes but its social impact at the community and individual levels.”

The Minister also used the opportunity to speak to the issue of urban blight. He said that this is evident all over the island but that it is being tackled from a number of angles. These include:

·         The Housing Public/Private Partnership Policy

·         The Draft National Housing Policy and Implementation Plan

·         The First Step Housing Programme

·         GOJ/FFP/JEEP Collaboration

·         The NHT’s Inner City Housing Programme

·         The Sugar Workers Housing Programme

·         Titling Programme

·         The proposed amendment to the Mortgage Insurance Act

For her part, Permanent Secretary Audrey Sewell said she was pleased to be a part of the Consultations as she said “…when we involve as many of our populace in our decision making, the outcomes are likely to be more embracing.” 

Commenting on the various housing related problems affecting Jamaica, she said, “We in Jamaica have not been unaffected by the housing problem and the attendant wider human settlement issues. From settlements on river embankments to squatting to homelessness – our scenario runs the whole gamut and we are certainly very happy to plug into the UN Habitat outfit to discuss and seek solutions.”