Prime Minister Andrew Holness said there is an urgent need for urban renewal across the island as the large number of derelict buildings and aging infrastructure will drive lifestyle and economic growth.
In fact, Holness said the government cannot lead Jamaica’s redevelopment and urban renewal alone, but rather the private sector should join the effort.
“Much of our current infrastructure is aging and poorly maintained, and the longer it stays, the greater will be what we call the urban blight,” said Holness, who was speaking last week at the inauguration of the 30 Pulse units. housing development and opening of its Lifestyle Village at Villa Ronai in St Andrew.
“There will also be higher levels of deterioration of our built environment, which will push the way of life away,” Holness said.
Using Kingston as an example, he said much of the built infrastructure is dated compared to other comparable countries in the region.
Still, he noted that cities like London and Paris have aging infrastructure, but it is well maintained as part of their cultural heritage.
In Jamaica, however, he said that was not the case because aging infrastructure was not maintained.
“This process of constant reinvestment in real estate, not just in building new buildings, but in regenerating existing buildings, is a very important process,” Holness said, adding that a built environment is a way of quality life.
“In our context, this process has slowed down over the past 30 years, resulting in a case where many of our communities have reached the point of urban decline and need significant funding to renew themselves,” said he argued.
While pointing to the center of Kingston as one of the areas where urban decay is evident, Holness said it was good that “new energy” was emerging in the property market.
“…Developers now want to come in and invest and buy properties and rebuild them and build new properties. That’s good…” he said.
At the same time, he warned that this process can become “chaotic, as you wonder how this can be done in an orderly fashion while respecting the original definition of how these communities should develop.
“How do you respect people’s right to privacy? How do you develop these properties and ensure that environmental and urban planning standards are met?” questioned Holness.
As the minister responsible for this process, he said: “It is a daily challenge and we are constantly looking at it, and we have reinforced the regulations, as well as the supervision of the projects.”
Praising Pulse Investments Limited chairman Kingsley Cooper for his company’s investment in the property market, Holness said Jamaica’s redevelopment cannot be achieved by government alone.
He said other private sector companies needed to team up to help the government make similar investments in real estate, including building more houses for low- and middle-income people locally.