Sun | Jan 16, 2022

Land issues foster board house and squatting culture – MP

Published:Friday | April 23, 2021 | 12:13 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer


Moreland Wilson, the member of parliament for the Westmoreland Western constituency, says the colonial ghost of the sugar cane industry has forced a large portion of his constituents into renting, leasing, and squatting on state-owned or private lands.

According to the government backbencher, the proliferation of board dwellings throughout his constituency is a direct result of no access to land ownership in the parish, and he will be making representation for some of the underutilised sugar lands to be packaged at special rates for purchase.

“I have squatting in every municipal division in my constituency. Land tenureship in Westmoreland is the most long-standing, the most contentious, and the most stressful aspect of the development of the constituency,” said Wilson.

“What you will find is that a lot of the sugar workers who have been working on the lands don’t have lands and their children don’t have lands either…, so you will find that they go to the second-best thing, which is to rent, lease or capture.

“You will find that over the years, a lot of residents who can’t get lands to lease or rent will go and capture land,” Wilson said, as he explained the rationale behind the gravitating culture of board houses in his constituency, and the wider parish of Westmoreland, in an interview with The Gleaner.

“There is a lot of capturing of lands happening even right now,” he said. “It’s like a land grab going on in Westmoreland as a result of the inability of (the state) to provide adequate housing solutions for these persons.”

He said many of his constituents cannot afford or are not in a position to purchase any of the multimillion-dollar houses that are being built on the market now, even with the attractive nature of the pre-qualification offers at the National Housing Trust for contributors.

According to the government backbencher, these people are not able to build concrete structures on the land they lease or rent based on the agreement reached between them and their landlords.

“I am seeking to secure several parcels of lands which we will sell lots of varying sizes to the residents. You will have somebody who will just get the land and foundation or the structure of the house without a roof,” he explained.

“I am proposing an alternative that will give my constituents easier access to Crown lands, especially now that most of the lands in the parish are being held under the Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings, coupled with the fact that sugar cane is no longer being cultivated,” Wilson stated.

He argues that this proposal is easier and cheaper for the Government to implement and will help to reverse the colonial era. “We will say to the people, select your lots, put your board houses on it, pay off your mortgage for the land and then take your time and build your dream houses.”