NEWS

Jamaicans Object To PNP’s Use Of Agricultural Lands For Housing

According to a recent Press report, the government of Jamaica is seeking an investor to acquire approximately 780 acres of prime farmland in Montpelier, St. James, for housing and shopping thus creating another dormitory community in the island.

In its most recent project information document, the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) notes that it is seeking a suitable investor to acquire a 28.16-acre property zoned for commercial enterprise and 747 acres of land suitable for residential use in the contiguous parishes of St James and Hanover part of Montpelier Citrus Company Limited (MCC).

The lands are owned by the DBJ through the MCC which it acquired from National Commercial Bank in 1999. The MCC property comprises three farms totaling 2,972 acres (1,203 hectares). In May 2010, some 524 acres of the 2,972 acres was sold to Ramble Enterprise Limited, a family-owned enterprise.

However, to date, the government has failed to sell the remaining acreage. Consequently, it now wants to create a dormitory community some 19 minutes away for Montego Bay’s tourism and call center workers.

The DBJ indicates that there is clear evidence of significant unmet demand for housing in and around this area.

Jamaicans Object To PNP’sIn seeking to buttress its latest position, the DBJ explained that “The Vision 2030 Sector Plan for Housing 2009-2030, highlighted that up to 2006 Jamaica needed to provide 15,000 new housing units and upgrade 9,700 units yearly to ensure that the housing stock kept pace with population. However, trends from 2006 onwards indicate that Jamaica must accelerate its efforts to achieve the critical housing developments required.”

Jamaicans at home and abroad, however, are not pleased with the latest position being taken by the government.

For the majority, the prime agricultural land should not be used as part of the building of any new housing stock but should as a matter of course be used for agricultural purposes.

Moreover, it is felt that building another dormitory community in the country is a recipe for disaster as the first one is already fast becoming one of the biggest ghettoes in the Caribbean.

On the other hand, many people view this latest announcement as a distraction and a quest by the ruling party to carve out another voting niche for itself.

One netizen who is familiar with the area posits the view that there are three issues surrounding the housing project proposal.

1) The area is a highly flood prone.

2) The Great River which provides water supply to the Montego Bay area flows through the area.

3) The land is the largest available agricultural space in the parish of St. James.

While another asked the following questions, why build houses on farm lands? Where are farmers supposed to farm, on rocks? What about “the eat what you grow” campaign and “let’s build Jamaica through farming? “

The Government, the netizen opined, had made reference to the Dominican Republic where farming is what got the country back on track, and he argues that that should be a teaching moment for the government of Jamaica.

He concludes that the 780 acres of land could be easily divided up and leased to people who want to farm. This he believes could create almost 3000 jobs.

Davy Desmond, Readers Bureau, Senior Fellow

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