Affordable housing solutions a priority for government of Jamaica

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre) engaged on conversation with winners in the Low - Cost Housing Design competition virtual award ceremony held on Tuesday (November 23). Left to Right) Fitzroy McIntosh; Roni-Kaye McLaren and Suzette Adams–Rickards representing Matandara Clarke Architects; and Zane Finnikin. [Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson]

By Rochelle Williams

KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – Prime minister Andrew Holness says the thrust to provide innovative and affordable housing solutions for Jamaicans continues to be a priority for the government, explained: “The government has a role to stimulate the emergence of a community of thought around building and design in Jamaica.”

Emphasising the importance of the collaboration of stakeholders in the construction industry in the development of innovative, cost-effective and affordable housing solution for Jamaicans, the prime minister noted that the initiative is intended to stimulate discussions on innovative building design technologies with a view to incorporating these in future developments.

“We are hoping that with these designs, we could use them to influence persons when they are making their construction decisions…When government is going to build, we will have these designs as templates that we can use,” he informed.

The prime minister was addressing the Low-Cost Housing Design competition virtual award ceremony on Tuesday, November 23.

Launched on May 7, the design competition aimed to encourage professionals in related fields to produce feasible solutions.

The competition solicited the participation of local architects, engineers, builders and students of the built environment, to identify cost-effective, sustainable, climate-resilient designs for the housing solutions to be built under the New Social Housing Programme.

There were over 300 submissions from individuals and teams. Winners as well as second and third-placed runners up were awarded cash prizes of $1 million; $500,000 and $250,000 respectively for each of the competition’s four design categories: one bedroom, two bedrooms, three bedrooms and multi-family units.

In addition, a cash prize of $50,000 was presented to honorary mentions for their innovative designs. All finalists also received plaques and special recognition certificates.

The winners for each category are Richard Gazader for the one-bedroom design; Zane Finnikin for the two-bedroom design; Fitzroy McIntosh for the three-bedroom; and Matandara Clarke Architects for the multi-family unit.

The winning entries from the competition will be utilised to inform the design of future housing solutions under the New Social Housing Programme.

Chair of the nine-member panel of judges for the Low-Cost Housing Design Competition Janet Thompson who presented the judges report said the competition harnessed the talents of persons from a broad cross-section of the Jamaican population – professionals and amateurs alike.

“Coming out of the work that we did, it is clear that we have a wealth of ideas out there to address this challenge that we are trying to solve…There certainly are elements from many of the entries we received which can be taken forward into formulating a design solution that can address the … housing problem in Jamaica,” she said.

Outlining the judging criteria, Thompson said entries for each category which were compliant with the requirements were individually evaluated and the winner selected based on majority vote.

Entries were assessed on cost of the unit, innovation, climate resilience, functionality and materials.

Local government and rural development minister Desmond McKenzie, who noted that the competition promoted active engagement between citizens and the government in the design of affordable housing solutions, commended the private sector for its support of the initiative and urged buy-in of all Jamaicans.

“For every single Jamaican that we are able to provide a housing solution…, it will enhance and build the capacity of that single Jamaican,” he said.

The initiative forms part of the National Social Housing Programme (NSHP), an extension of the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) which aims to improve the housing conditions of the country’s indigent.

It also supports affordable housing solutions for homeownership for persons from a low socioeconomic background.

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