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Report: $1.8 Billion Needed To Make Adequate Housing In The Caribbean

caribbean housing

NASSAU — Up to $1.8 billion would be needed to end poor housing conditions in six Caribbean nations, a new report reveals, launched during the Inter-American Development Bank‘s (IDB) annual meeting, held this year in the Bahamas.

The State of Housing in Six Caribbean Countries, analysed between 2000 and 2015 the implementation of social housing programs in the Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

“Better housing translates into better health, security, communities, and economies,” Michael Donovan, Senior Housing and Urban Development Specialist, at the IDB, and one of the authors of the study, told Cities Today. “Its contribution to sustainable development in the Caribbean cannot be underestimated.”

Increasing urbanisation has created a housing deficit in the Caribbean, prompting a large share of the population to live in informal settlements that are disproportionately affected by landslides, flooding, and storm surges, the report says.

It highlights how housing can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the larger agenda in poverty alleviation, economic development, and climate resilience.

Moreover, the absence of efficiently functioning land markets, inaccurate property registries, and land disputes have compounded the problem and slowed the pace of housing programs.

The study says that Caribbean governments need to incorporate into their social housing programmes measures to protect homes against rising sea level because half of the population in the region lives within about three miles from the coastline.

Several housing ministries in the region are adopting new designs to increase the resilience of coastal housing, improving building codes and ensuring that floor levels of social housing are above recorded flood levels. Elevating homes in flood-prone areas saves $15 for every $1 invested because governments do not need to rebuild infrastructure.

Examples are included of how governments and business are working together to tackle the problem. In Trinidad and Tobago, the country’s Housing Development Corporation has adopted a Green Infrastructure Programme, focusing on green building practices. Working with the Jamaica Mortgage Bank, they have adapted green principles that will be used as a guide in assessing new development projects. Those that comply with these green principles will benefit from special interest rates on their construction loans from the bank if upon completion of their construction the development maintains the green principles proposed.

“Improving housing conditions in the Caribbean can have large impacts on poverty reduction, improving lives of a significant share of the population,’’ said Donovan. “With this book, we expect to help the region develop a comprehensive urban agenda so countries can achieve their sustainable development goals.”

The report also harmonises the work the IDB, together with Habitat for Humanity, has conducted for Habitat III to coordinate a Policy Unit of 20 high-level experts to develop housing policy recommendations for UN member states.

The Policy Unit’s report includes quantifying the global cost of slum upgrading and also highlights roles of the donor community in housing. The report will be presented to UN member states at the end of April.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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