Nearly a third of the population are squatters!
We are still reeling from the shock of this statement. According to a report posted on RJR’s web site, it was revealed that nearly a third of the population are squatters during an examination of allocations to the Ministry of Water and Housing at Wednesday's sitting of the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament.
Housing Minister Dr. Horace Chang told committee members that a recent survey by the Squatter Unit in the ministry has revealed there are just over 700 squatter settlements across the island.
"They vary from the very small to some large ones in my own constituency (St. James North Western), Clarendon is coming along very rapidly and sections of St. Ann. Montego Bay has roughly 30,000 squatter solutions which is almost more than half the population and that is our second largest city," Dr. Chang said.
Over five million dollars has been allocated for squatter management in the 2009-2010 budget.
Members of the House raised concerns about the effectiveness of the Squatter Unit to manage the situation given that the office has only four members of staff.
However, Dr. Chang explained that in its current incarnation, the unit is primarily intended to develop policy.
He noted that Government is taking steps to deal with the problem of squatting more definitively.
"Where most of lands are Government owned, we use the Housing Fund to establish temporary rangers to reduce the expansion of squatting but we're undertaking improvements in some areas. We have the design for a full Squatter Unit but it could not be accommodated in this year's budget. In the meantime, we'll still continue to work with the other agencies involved that have field people," said Dr. Chang.
The Water and Housing Minister added that the long awaited housing policy should be completed by September this year.