Expansion of highway network to spur affordable housing developments – Jamaica Observer

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Prime Minister Andrew Holness says his Administration’s strategic approach to build out the country’s highway network will spur growth in the housing sector.
He is optimistic that the focus on highways to reduce travel time will result in more affordable housing solutions.
“I know there are many Jamaicans saying, ‘why are we building all these highways, focus on local roads’. There is a strategy at work to develop the country, we have to build out the highway network, so that it opens up lands for housing development and the more lands we open for housing development, the price of the lands will go down,” Holness said last Friday while addressing a handing-over ceremony under the social housing programme in Devon, north-east Manchester.
The US$188-million May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 — which will reduce travel time between Kingston, Mandeville and other points west — is scheduled for completion in August.
Holness said when developers focus on building close to urban centres the price of land is high.
“… Everyone is trying to build closer to Kingston where the demand is so high. The price of the land is going to be high, so when we build out the highway network, it helps to moderate in the long term the price of land, so people can live a little bit out in what you would then call suburbs and commute into where they have to work,” he said.
When completed the highway will reduce travel time between May Pen and Williamsfield to below 15 minutes.
Holness said the Government is investing in the necessary infrastructure to accommodate more housing solutions.
“We have been very ambitious. We have set ourselves a target of that 100,000 to do 70,000 housing solutions. The [National Housing Trust] has committed to take on 43,000 housing solutions out of that 70,000. Right here in Manchester [NHT has] already identified and started on 1,900 plus units,” he said.
Some 3,406 lots and houses are planned for the Perth Estate Phase 2 and Mount Nelson in Manchester.
“Now to build those units, we have to make sure that we water. The work is ongoing in increasing water supply to Manchester,” said Holness.
The Pepper well field, downslope at low altitude in St Elizabeth, is the main source of water for Mandeville, which is more than 2,000 feet above sea level, atop the Manchester Plateau.
Holness said the Government there isn’t sufficient land for more housing developments in urban areas.
“… We are strategically increasing the highway network, because most people want to live in Kingston or close to the Corporate Area or close to the urban centre of St James, but we just don’t have enough land to accommodate everyone, so we have to be able to use the land right across Jamaica, but ensure that people can move from urban and residential centres into the productive centres of the country where the employment is, so what we are trying to do in building out the network is that if you choose to live here [Manchester] and you want to work in Kingston then you just jump on that [highway] and within an hour you are at your work, and that is the idea,” said Holness.
He added that the housing deficit for the affordable housing sector is estimated at 100,000 units.
“… If we were able to overnight put in 100,000 affordable units, meaning solutions that could be as little as $2 million to as high as $15 million, we would be able to solve the housing and settlement problem in Jamaica. We would solve the squatting problem… but that solution can’t happen overnight,” said Holness.
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