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SQUATTING IN JAMAICA AN OVERVIEW

Desmond Hall Lecturer Department of Sociology, Psychology & Social Work University of the West Indies Mona

INTRODUCTION
In recent times, concerns have been mounting in almost every quarter of the Jamaican society at the level at which these squatter settlements have sprouting out of control and the threats which they pose to the social well-being of the wider population. Despite efforts of governments, with the support of international agencies and institutions, and NGOs, to arrest this phenomenon, the growth of these settlements has shown no signs of diminishing.
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DEFINITIONS & CONCEPTS


Who is a squatter?
The term squatter is generally used to describe a person who dwells on a piece of land or occupy a vacant dwelling for which he/she does not have a legal right so to do.

What is a squatter settlement?


A residential area occupied by squatters

Squatting
the illegal occupation of land, or the illegal erection or occupation of a dwelling
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TYPES OF SQUATTERS

Residential

Speculator squatter Squatter landlord Owner squatter Squatter holdover Semi-squatter Floating squatter Squatter tenant

Squatter Corporation

Commercial

Store squatter or occupational squatter


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Agricultural

SQUATTER SETTLEMENTS: ORIGIN The development of squatter settlements in Jamaica began in the early nineteenth century after the abolition of slavery. After their so-called freedom, slaves were faced with two options:
remain on the plantations and work for the plantation owners settle illegally on private or state-owned land and live as squatters
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THE SQUATTER POPULATION


A preliminary survey by the Ministry of Housing has found that a quarter of Jamaica's population (675 000) live in squatter settlements. Estimates also indicate that one of every three urban dwellers live in squatter settlements.
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SQUATTER SETTLEMENTS: CHARACTERISTICS

Most squatter settlements are characterised by:


Lack of or poor sanitation Inadequate physical infrastructure

Poor quality housing


Improvised dwellings High housing density High levels of unemployment and underemployment Impoverished people

Absence of social infrastructure

The housing situation in Jamaica is desperate. A range of issues are responsible for this situation.
Urbanisation An acute shortage of adequate housing

THE HOUSING CRISIS

Poverty
Unemployment Housing cost and affordability

Poor housing quality & condition


Lack of access to finance for housing Low housing production levels

Obsolescence housing stock

THE HOUSING CRISIS


The nature of the housing crisis has reflected itself in:
Overcrowding Insanitary conditions Land capturing Mushrooming of squatter settlements without the basic services and amenities
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HOUSING POVERTY
Nearly 10.0 per cent of the Jamaican population were classified as poor in 2007
[Poverty line $282,000.93 for the reference family of five (two adults and three children) and at $74,349.17 for the individual].

Poor people face two kinds of housing problems


Their paltry income is eaten up by housing expenses They always live beside someone else who is poor

20.0 per cent of Jamaican households pay more than they can afford for housing. A large portion of the so-called homeowners are in arrears in their mortgage
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SQUATTER SURVEY 2004: FINDINGS


595 squatter settlements were identified across the country

488 or 82% of these settlements are located in the urban areas


76% of the settlements are on government lands 16% of settlements are on private lands including lands belonging to the church Land ownership of 8% of settlements could not be determined
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SQUATTER SURVEY 2004: FINDINGS


11% of the settlements originally had formal lease agreement with government, however, this was abandoned over time 36% of the settlements have been in existence for more than 25 years Hanover is the only parish in which no new settlement emerged within the last decade Clarendon, St. Catherine and St. James have seen accelerated growth of squatter settlements within the last five years
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SQUATTER SURVEY 2004: FINDINGS In the parish of Manchester there were no evidence of squatting on government lands In the squatter settlements male household heads were dominant
Male household head 49.4% Female household head 18.7% Joint headship 1.3%

The average household size was 3.0


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SQUATTER SURVEY 2004: FINDINGS Employment status of squatters:


34.7% were self-employed 17.6% were in full time employment 16.6 % were in part-time employment 14.2% were seasonally employed 12.1% were unemployed

A large percentage of the females squatting were employed as domestic helper

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SQUATTER SURVEY 2004: FINDINGS


When respondents were questioned on the reasons for squatting they offered the following:
Nowhere to live
Unable to find accommodation Rental accommodation too high Know people in the settlement and followed them An appropriate place to set up commercial establishment, e.g. workshop Political To save money for a specific venture
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WHY DO SQUATTER SETTLEMENTS EXIST? Rapid urbanisation and inadequate capability to cope with the housing needs of people
Inability of the housing sector to provide affordable housing units Failed policies Bad governance Corruption Inappropriate regulations
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WHY DO SQUATTER SETTLEMENTS EXIST?

Dysfunctional land markets

Unresponsive financial systems


A fundamental lack of political will Acute housing shortage Economic hardships Availability of idle lands
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SOCIAL IMPACTS OF SQUATTING


The lack of social amenities, public facilities and the idleness that characterizes squatter settlements encourage theft of public services and often promote socially deviant behaviour. This is evident in the large incidence of stolen electricity and water supply in many squatter communities.
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SOCIAL IMPACTS OF SQUATTING


Educational opportunities are very limited in squatter communities because there are hardly any schools nearby. Children have to travel far to attend school, and to make matters worse education is not a priority in these communities. Consequently, there are numerous school dropouts, with many children not going beyond the elementary level (Ferguson B., 1996).
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SOCIAL IMPACTS OF SQUATTING

Squatter settlements are often characterized by threats of eviction, which undermine personal security.

Squatters generally lack protection from disasters like fire and floods that destroy property on a regular basis.
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HEALTH IMPACTS OF SQUATTING

Air-borne diseases like acute respiratory infections are common due to overcrowding and poor ventilation.
Outbreaks of water borne diseases like cholera and typhoid are very prevalent because of the absence of proper water supply systems, sewage and solid waste disposal systems.
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HEALTH IMPACTS OF SQUATTING


Foul-smelling garbage and smells from open gullies affect squatter communities, especially children.
Single mothers in squatter communities often leave their young children unattended when they go to seek work, thereby risking childrens injury and sometimes death. The dilemma for these women, however, is that their failure to seek work can mean starvation for their families.
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HEALTH IMPACTS OF SQUATTING


Unreliable collection of waste often results in the prevalence of rats, cockroaches and spiders, all of which may pause a health hazard especially to children.
The implication of all of the above is that squatter settlements are a potential health hazard not only to their inhabitants, but also to the public at large that interfaces with many of these people on a daily basis.
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ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF SQUATTING

Associated with the risk to human health is the damage to the physical environment arising from the squatting process. Because squatters are unable to afford electricity, they tend to rely on firewood and charcoal for cooking, leading to deforestation of their surroundings.

Dwellings of squatters are often crammed together, thereby making them especially exposed to the spread of fire.

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ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF SQUATTING

Squatter settlements are often located in environmentally vulnerable areas such as steep hillsides, next to industrial sites, flood planes and swamps.

Inadequate disposal of sewage and solid waste leads to the contamination and pollution of rivers, waterways, gullies, drains and ground water supplies
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ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF SQUATTING


Sprawling squatter settlements that do not relate to any existing growth centres increase the demand and cost of urban services. Unplanned settlements may also cause the destruction of areas of ecological importance such as mangroves, which also have an impact on the fishing industry.

There are also economic costs resulting from the conversion of lands suitable for agriculture, tourism and industrial uses to unproductive illegal settlements.
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ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF SQUATTING


Because squatters reside and work on land to which they have no rights, they are highly insecure, thus undermining their ability to be productive members of society. Squatters are often rejected and shunned by potential employers because of the bad reputation associated with the ghettos in which they live, leading to their high levels of unemployment and a feeling of exclusion.
Ironically, squatters often pay more than their wealthier neighbours for the few services they may get because they lack the basic infrastructure like roads that make access to those services much easier and cheaper.
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HOUSING INTERVENTION STRATEGIES


Demolition & Forced Eviction [Slum Clearance]

Sites and Services


Urban Upgrading Starter Homes Programme for Resettlement and Integrated Development Enterprise [Operation PRIDE]

Relocation 2000
Inner City Housing Programme [ICHP]
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RECOMMENDATIONS

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SQUATTER SETTLEMENTS
Accelerate the squatter regularisation programme Streamline the land titling process

Promote incremental infrastructure development Encourage aided self-help to improve the living conditions in regularised settlements

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SQUATTER SETTLEMENTS
Seek low-interest international loans and/or grants to on-lend to beneficiaries consistent with the ability to repay or to provide subsidies as necessary

Aggressively monitor government lands to prevent further squatting


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SQUATTER SETTLEMENTS
Establish and rigorously enforce laws to address squatting Develop squatter management policy
Restructure and strengthen the capacity of the Squatter Management Unit in the MOWH to work in coordination with Local Government
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SQUATTER SETTLEMENTS: EVICTION To dismantle and move squatter communities to areas outside the urban centres would be an unacceptable policy as it will not bring the expected environmental improvements desired by the State. By moving them far away from the city, squatters would be deprived of employment, education, and access to basic infrastructure and services.
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SQUATTER RIGHTS
Squatter has rights:
Squatters cannot be legally evicted from premises without a court possession order, unless they leave voluntarily or the owner secures peaceable re-entry. If a private landowner leaves his land unsupervised and leaves the squatter undisturbed for 12 years or more, then the informal settler can claim the land through the process of adverse possession under the Limitations of Actions Act. It is important to understand that squatting and trespassing are not necessarily the same. Trespassing is a criminal offense and squatting is technically a civil 34 matter.

SQUATTER SETTLEMENTS
Squatters need help in making the transition from inhabitants of precarious urban settlements to citizens with full human rights and civic responsibilities. This transition will be abetted by the adoption of the following principles: Fighting poverty without fighting the poor Fighting squatting, not squatters, through improved capacity in urban physical planning

Recognise the importance of gender as an explicit consideration in all squatter settlements improvement strategies, plans, programmes and activities
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CONCLUDING COMMENTS

The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little.
Franklyn Delano Roosevelt, 32nd US. President (1933-1945).
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HIGH POPULATION PRESSURE

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1. Kingston & St. Andrew 2. St. Catherine 3. Clarendon 4. St. Ann


59 53 45 44 43 42 27 22 19 11
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95 69 66

5. Westmoreland
6. Portland

7. St. Mary
8. Trelawny 9. St. James 10. St. Thomas 11. St. Elizabeth 12. Hanover 13. Manchester

SQUATTER SETTLEMENTS IN JAMAICA at 2004

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SQUATTER SETTLEMENTS: LAND OCCUPATION


Squatter Settlements Distribution

76%

Government lands Privately owned lands Govt./Private Sector ownership Ownership unknown

7%

1%

16%

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STARTER HOUSE
Services Party Walls
Bathroom

STUDIO

SITES & SERVICES


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ROADWAY
Lot Boundary
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SQUATTER SETTLEMENT: CANTERBURY, ST. JAMES

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SQUATTER SETTLEMENT : GRANVILLE, ST. JAMES