Speaking notes for Desmond Malcolm General Manager, Urban Development Corporation - World Town Planning Day
Speaking notes for Desmond Malcolm
General Manager, Urban Development Corporation
World Town Planning Day
November 9, 2015
Congratulations to the national environment and planning agency and the other stakeholder partners, on this the celebration of another world town planning day. The observance of the day and the theme guiding the activities, resonate with the urban development corporation (UDC).
The UDC as you may know was established by an act of parliament in 1968, with a development mandate to positively impact the quality of life of the citizens of the country. It is a mandate that cannot be accomplished without the planning component, not just for our urban centres but also for those emerging urban centres in rural townships.
The theme of housing regeneration: strengthening communities is therefore very apt and the actioning of it is critical to Jamaica accomplishing vision 2030 as the place to live, work, play and raise a family.
The need for housing regeneration is not just a national one, but more so a global necessity and one, which is constrained by financial realities. This however is not intended to provide comfort for us here in Jamaica, but to instead act as an impetus, to propel us towards achieving the goal of providing adequate and affordable housing for our population.
In developing the plan for the redevelopment of downtown Kingston and Port Royal in 2012, the following statistics were revealed –
- 28% of the population own homes
- 25% occupy housing rent free
- 3% occupy housing through squatting
- 40% occupy housing through renting
When this data is viewed in the national context, 52% of the population is located in urban centres, with the projection that approximately 13,260 units will be required annually up to 2025, to satisfy the country’s projected housing needs.
The UDC believes and is committed to wholistic development and has over the years played its part in contributing to the housing sector, whether by direct development or facilitation through the sale of property.
In downtown Kingston, which is an area of focus for the UDC, several issues have been identified which impact the provision of housing. These include –
- Title and land tenure
- Unavailability of suitable land
- Housing finance and affordability
- Housing providers
- Safety and security
- Types of housing solutions
- Social and cultural patterns
As a consequence, the UDC has developed several strategies to address the issues identified.
Firstly, is the need to formalise land and home ownership as there exists ambiguity regarding the ownership of property which impedes the land being utilised for housing development. Where these situations exist, the first step in this regards therefore would be to establish ownership, in order to facilitate the purchase of these lands by residents, or even by the UDC
Second strategy is to encourage the building of houses on vacant land. This involves the building of starter homes on serviced lots, which would encourage further build out by the owner.
Third startegy is the facilitation of yard renewal process. This is the transformation of existing tenement yards into communities of acceptable environmental standards, where the homes are individually owned. In fact, the corporation implemented a pilot project for yard transformation in select communities inclusive of chestnut lane, West Kingston and Hanover street in central Kingston. The results are being assessed for replication as compatible.
I should at this point also state that the UDC is currently providing project management services for the national housing trust, majesty garden housing development, for which designs were done by the corporation.
Another critical strategy is to encourage the rehabilitation of existing owned homes, where the owners could access mortage or technical assistance through available programmes.
The fifth strategy is the development for sale of townhouses and apartment buildings on large vacant lots, to attract that market segment.
The last strategy which i wish to proffer at this time, is one that is by no means new, having been positied in 1968, by a group called shankland cox and associates, which had also prepared development plans for the Kingston waterfront. The proposal involves the utilisation of the general penitentary lands for housing development. This would allow the offering of a mixed use development. We believe that it is a concept worth pursuing especially at this time when plans are been formulated to relocate the maximum security facility
The strategies outlined i believe will support housing regeneration and although the examples posited are in direct relationship to downtown Kingston and port royal, i believe they can be adjusted to address the needs in other areas.
This brings me to the second part of the theme- strengthening communities. Proper housing we know is but one aspect of this process. Some issues we believe that are requisite to the strengthening of communities, include ensuring that the supporting infrastructure is in place, for the comfort of the existing fresidents as well as to attract new ones .
In addition to the provision of road, water, electricity, sewerage, there is the need for meaningful employment to engage the citizenry. Of course for a balanced lifestyle, there will be the need for entertainment and leisure . The provision of opportunities for commerce is also critical to the sustainability and strengthening of the community.
The UDC has been spearheading the redevelopment plan for downtown Kingston and facilitating discrete projects including the retrofitting or repurposing of existing buildings. The corporation has for example undertaken the development of the festival market place, a natural extension to the craft market, where several kiosks have been constructed with a view to providing additional commercial opportunities, while enhancing the liesure/dining offerings in the area.
The corporation is also exploring housing options to targetting different segments of the market. There are also commercial activities being explored. All of this in keeping with the development plan the area.
It is important to state however that regeneration of housing in downtown Kingston and by extension the rest of the country requires the combined resources of the private and public sector agencies, the collaborative efforts of all the stakeholders. It is this united effort that will give life to the theme of this day – regeneration of housing: strengthening communities.