CHULA VISTA, California — The Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) is an organization seeking to improve the quality of life for Jamaican residents through supplying and supporting affordable housing. In 1838, following the abolition of slavery in Jamaica, many experienced houselessness, translating to the need to squat. Squatting refers to the illegal occupation of uninhabited land. In Jamaica, homelessness has endured over time, with a consistent need for affordable housing and governmental support.
The Development of the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ)
The then Prime Minister of Jamaica launched the Operation Programme for Resettlement and Integrated Development Enterprise (PRIDE) in 1994 to address this need. PRIDE, with three primary objectives, sought to establish new settlements to provide housing options for lower to middle-income families. Additionally, it aimed to promote health and wellness within these newly developed areas and ensure that these communities had access to the essential resources for their overall development.
Following the eradication of several faulty housing corporations, including Project PRIDE, in 2008, the Jamaican government created the HAJ. The primary goal of HAJ, as the development branch of the Housing Ministry, is to regulate informal settlements and undertake low-income greenfield developments.
How HAJ is Addressing Houselessness
In an effort to eradicate illegal settlements, the Jamaican government has outlined a plan to construct 70,000 housing units, with HAJ tasked with delivering 14,000 of them. Making significant progress, as of September 2023, development had already commenced on 6,500 houses. This leaves a remaining 7,500 to be completed to achieve the overall goal. According to Norman Brown, Chairman of HAJ’s board, there are “another eight projects, possibly about 5,000 additional houses, that are either in planning or at the beginning of their implementation stage.”
As of April 2023, HAJ has 7,732 titles held under Operation PRIDE and efforts are underway to distribute these titles. As part of the project’s plan for the year 2023/2024, it aims to facilitate the distribution of 866 units. This includes 521 units from the Catherine Estates and 345 units from the Edmond Ridge projects. The commission is also working with the National Housing Trust (NHT) to produce 126 units specifically for/within inner-city populations.
According to its website, HAJ is on track with two current projects. It is working on Luana 4 Phase 3 in St. Elizabeth and Hellshire View in St. Catherine. Presently, the commission is working with the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation to facilitate the New Social Housing Programme (NSHP), which is under the housing component of the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) program. The NSHP was established in 2018 by the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Michael Holness. The project aims to “improve the living conditions of the country’s poor and disadvantaged population by providing quality, affordable and sustainable housing.”
– Sophia Lovell