Fizahan-tany any Jamaika Minister Hon. Edmund Bartlett has hailed the partnership with his Ministry and the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) which is set to yield a $20 billion housing project for tourism workers in St. James.
The proposed site for the 1200 housing units is in Grange Pen, eastern St. James which is in close proximity to where Hard Rock will be investing in the development of a 1700-room hotel, adjacent to the Iberostar Hotel.
In highlighting the importance of this project, Minister Bartlett said: “We believe that our tourism workers deserve to live in clean, orderly, structured and safe communities with appropriate infrastructure. As such, housing for tourism workers remains a critical prong in our overall human capital development strategy.”
The development, which is expected to take three to five years, will a mix of mostly one and two-bedroom units and some three-bedrooms. HAJ Managing Director Gary Howell said: “We’re in the process of finding joint venture partners. We have advanced planning and are expecting later on this year to get all approvals in place.”
He said the Tourism Enhancement Fund is already on board as a partner having bought the land and another partnership proposal for the project is currently being evaluated to see if it meets the needs of the development “as we want to get housing that is affordable for the hotel workers. We are ensuring that whatever we are building those persons will be able to afford.”
Minister Bartlett said it is important that hotel workers have a sense of place, “This is very important because the workers of the industry, over time, have been at the bottom end of the beneficiaries of tourism.
“The argument of lower salaries and so on have all impacted the value-added from tourism so my strategy now is to build the capacity of the workers, to lift the quality of the service they offer, also their standard of living and their quality of life so that the benefits of tourism are felt by them as well.”
Minister Bartlett said a holistic approach is being taken to the development of tourism workers with training and certification well underway through the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation, workers housing development representing the social component, and the Tourism Workers Pension Scheme as the final leg.
More houses are already being built for tourism workers. Most of the 750 units under construction at Rhyne Park will go to them while a portion the 3,000 units at The Estuary in Johns Hall is also reserved for them.
According to Minister Bartlett, “We’re working with NHT (National Housing Trust) in St. Ann where development is going to take place primarily around Karisma Hotels and Resorts’ US$1-billion 4,800 rooms multi-resort development at Llandovery where ground is to be broken on Friday, February 28 for the first 1700-room hotel.
“This is part of a broader strategy of ensuring that this industry is not only the whiskey and soda thing that people talk about; but it has a dimension to development and transformation.”