Wed | Jun 19, 2019

Clarke: Let local gov’t handle $1b housing project

Published:Saturday | March 16, 2019 | 12:18 AM
Lee Clarke, councillor of the Whitehall division.
Lee Clarke, councillor of the Whitehall division.

A local official aligned to the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has suggested that the Government’s proposed $1-billion social housing programme should not be led by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation (MEGJC).

Instead, Lee Clarke, councillor for the Whitehall division in the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation, believes that the programme should be transferred to the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development.

To support his suggestion, Clarke asserted that the local government ministry has all the professionals and expertise needed to implement a low-income housing project.

“I have an objection to the $1 billion being afforded to the ministry that was conceived to create wealth and growth,” he opined in a letter to The Gleaner yesterday.

The $1-billion allocation to the MEGJC was announced by Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke during his contribution to the 2019-2020 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives last week. Prime Minister Andrew Holness is to provide details about the programme in his Budget speech next Tuesday.

But Clarke suggested that the programme could start with quad units similar to those erected in the 1990s as part of the Greater Portmore Housing Project.

“The councils [municipal corporations] own lands, and each would be asked to produce 500 quad units using half-hectares of land,” he explained.

“The municipal corporations can find the needy people who just need the push-start such as the gardeners, masons, carpenters, cosmetologists, bartenders, and other small entrepreneurs,” Clarke added.

He said that beneficiaries would be required to pay the National Housing Trust $5,000 per month. “This scheme would be adding new contributions to the NHT, hence the $1 billion would not be a giveaway, but a start-up fund to the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development for infrastructure and technical work,” he posited.