By Caribbean News Now contributor
KINGSTON, Jamaica –A sharp increase in tourism in Jamaica is facilitating a boost in affordable homes. Workers in the tourism industry will be the primary beneficiaries of the Rhyne Park Housing Development through which 754 affordable units will be provided.
The housing project will alleviate the challenges of informal settlement appearing on the north coast. This gesture would serve to resolve the widespread problem, in addition to providing quality housing for the people who play a pivotal role in preserving the island’s number one industry, tourism.
This project will be undertaken through a joint venture agreement between the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) and the China-based Henan Fifth Construction Group. Both parties signed the agreement for the undertaking during a ceremony at Jamaica House on Wednesday, April 24.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who participated in the signing, said he was pleased to see a venture previously regarded as unfeasible come to fruition. He explained that property for the construction was acquired in 2009 by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) with the intention of providing housing for workers in the tourism industry.
However, the project did not get off the ground as expected. Following an assessment, local contractors were unable to construct the houses for below $20 million, which would have been an expensive undertaking for the government. Holness said the Henan Fifth Group provided the government with a solution, “to how we can utilise this land that we have tied up government resources in,” noting that the country can now learn from this experience.
“We have to analyse what technology, what different analysis, what different building strategies are going to be used that make the project now sustainable and how we can transpose that through a learning experience to our local contractors,” he said. In his remarks through an interpreter, general manager, overseas branch, Henan Fifth Construction Group, Riulin Ji, said the joint venture represents a further deepening of the friendship between China and Jamaica.
Ji assured that the construction enterprise, which is one of the most successful and well known in China, will work to build the “highest quality houses for Jamaicans,” providing a “professional team, the best quality material, and the strictest management.” For his part, minister without portfolio in the ministry of economic growth and job creation, Senator Pearnel Charles Jr, said he was pleased with the HAJ’s partnership with the Henan Fifth Group, which is “able to provide the expertise in design and building and financing.”
Charles Jr noted that he is looking forward to the results “where we know we will share risks but there will be increased capacity and efficiencies and it will all rebound to the benefit of the Jamaican people.”
Minister of tourism and member of parliament for East Central St James, Edmund Bartlett, where the development will take place, welcomed the project, which he said is greatly appreciated by his constituents, particularly tourism workers.