Government has started the process of removing hundreds of illegal structures in the squatting community at Rock Hall, St Philip.
Over the weekend, workers with the assistance of bobcats and trucks began the job of removing the wooden and wall structures that had been constructed on the site of a landfill.
During a visit to the area on Monday, Minister of Housing, Lands and Maintenance Dwight Sutherland said Government was pushing ahead with its plans to solve the decades-old squatting problem.
Sutherland, who was accompanied by a team of officials from the National Housing Corporation (NHC) and consultants working on the project, said seven squatters had so far been relocated to Carpenter’s Glade, St Philip.
“This project predates this administration and has been going on for some time. This is a squatting community on some 66.8 acres of land…. Let me bring perspective because persons think we are just here to move people and [are] disadvantaging persons but we are looking out for every single person who lives on this property, for their safety,” the Minister said, reiterating that the squatters were not only living on a dump but also too close to the Grantley Adams International Airport and in breach of international aviation regulations.
“….Successive governments have tried to find solutions for this problem that has existed for more than 30 years, and I don’t know for what reason – probably for finances, for some want of the effort to have this situation resolved –…but for governments to have allowed this to go on for years, I don’t know the words to use but this is untenable and we have to find a solution.”
Sutherland said more than 253 houses would have to be moved from the site in Rock Hall.
He said five consultants had been allocated to the project to assist in the relocation of the squatters.
The Housing Minister pointed out that Government had so far relocated 106 persons who were deemed to be below the poverty line – working for less than $25 000 annually – to two-bedroom houses on 700 square feet of land and had entered into a rent-to-own agreement with the NHC.
Sutherland said sites had also been identified at Leadvale, Concordial Gardens, Parish Land Extension, Clifton and Carpenter’s Glade to house squatters.
One such squatter, Kemsham Wilkinson, watched on Monday as his home was dismantled.
The 48-year-old told members of the media his new residence in Carpenter’s Glade was a massive improvement from his old home where he lived for more than seven years without electricity or running water.
“I’m happy with where I am right now so I come to witness the demolition of the house that put me somewhere better, so that’s why I am here. I am proud of it. Since December I was in Carpenter’s Glade, Parish Land, St Philip. It has two bedrooms and is very comfortable and peaceful,” said Wilkinson, who lives with his three children, ages 7, 11 and 28.
“There was no running water here. My only solution was that tank there and the rain. I used to go by the standpipe and bring some water, and there was no electricity so it was a challenge.”
Wilkinson estimated he had spent around $10 000 to build his former home.
Sutherland said Government had also identified a parcel of land opposite HMP Dodds to be used for housing.
“We just approved a project to engage in infrastructural development over by the prison…. That land has been allocated and we have just approved a project to put in the necessary road infrastructure so we can relocate and resite every single person between Leadvale, Concordial Gardens, Parish Land Extension, Carpenter’s Glade, and some other sites, that can accommodate over 400 houses,” he said.