“I need a roof over my head
And bread on my table…
This love in my heart,
It’s love for everyone…”
Chances are, if you are reading this you may not be homeless nor risk losing your home to bulldozers, but you might know someone who is, and may want to share this with them.
Jamaican unplanned communities, frequently called “squatter communities”, are groups of homes in both rural and urban Jamaica that are built on property that belongs to someone other than the occupants of these homes.
Approximately 25% to 33% of Jamaicans live in these communities and just about every Jamaican has, or knows of a friend or family member that lives in one.
From “Squatting” to Owning Property in Jamaica
Most property acquisitions are done through the open market and require a minimum deposit of 5% or 15% of the total cost of the property depending on whether you use the National Housing Trust or the private market. For the poor, accumulating such a sum is close to impossible and makes owning property seem like a faraway dream.
Poverty and Housing
Poverty is by far the main reason many persons are homeless. Then there are disasters such as fire, mental health issues, addiction and other issues that combined with poverty makes these depressed, unplanned communities the only viable alternative for many
There are some Jamaicans in fact that are just a mortgage payment or emergency event away from being homelessness.
So what options do you have when there is no money for a down-payment or no access to a mortgage or family-land?
The Housing Agency of Jamaica
The Housing Agency of Jamaica is a government owned company created through the combination of several organisations including Operation PRIDE (Program for Resettlement and Integrated Development Enterprise) that may be able to help.
A few of their stated goals and objectives are:
- To provide affordable housing solutions
- To regularize and upgrade select informal settlements through social intervention and infrastructural development
- To work closely with all partners, i.e. Community Based Organizations (C.B.O.) etc.
- To provide security of tenure by ensuring provision of Property Titles to purchasers
Property Owners Without Proof of Ownership
“From the gully bottom to the Macca tree up top and round di bend and stop a Big Rock!” – that is the traditional boundary description for a plot of land passed down through several generations and that now belongs a family member living on the land.
No title exists to show the accuracy of the boundaries nor to prove that (s)he is the real owner of the property, and this could jeopardize their ownership of this family land.
If this is the case then the Land Administration and Management Program (LAMP) program may be helpful. They assist persons who now reside on land without proof of ownership, to obtain proper documentation establishing them as the owners.
Reaching Out for Help
The Department of Co-operatives and Friendly Societies (DCFS) helps communities to form and manage community-based organisations which may be more effective in changing the community from squatters to owners, than every household working on their own.
An excellent example of community organising is the Community Organisation for Management and Sustainable Development (COMAND) of Montego Bay, St. James which was formed in 1996 and has successfully helped to resettle over 500 families and formalize their housing situations. (See How to Organise a Community-Based Organisation)
Your elected representative is an important point of contact and there are also a number of support NGOs and government agencies including your parish council that may be helpful in explaining and guiding your group towards a path of sustainable housing.
Additionally, Food for the Poor is an outstanding organisation that has given assistance to those evicted and in need of temporary and sometimes permanent housing.
Photo credit: Jamaica Gleaner and Falmouth Trelawny Community Website