China Harbour breaks ground for St Catherine housing scheme

THE Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) on Wednesday officially broke ground for the 1,650-unit Catherine Estate housing project, to be developed in St Catherine, as a joint venture partnership with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), a company known for building roads and bridges.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness was special guest of the agency at the ground-breaking activities for the integrated, sustainable community development which is targeting low-income families, first-time homeowners and public sector workers. The project is estimated to cost $9.5 billion.

Holness said the Government is committed to ensuring that every Jamaican has the opportunity to own their own home, and that the National Housing Trust (NHT) will be providing 100 per cent financing for the houses.

“We are refocusing efforts to get the economy back on track and securing jobs that have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, so that you can be part of this great development,” he stated.

Catherine Estates will have 850 duplex studio units with an average size of 273 square feet, and 800 detached one-bedroom starter homes at 367 square feet.

Each housing unit will be configured for easy upward and outward expansion, and the projected selling prices are $5.5 million for studios and $6.6 million for one-bedroom units– subject to market conditions.

HAJ Chairman Norman Brown said the project is a perfect representation of the agency’s mission to ensure that Jamaicans from all walks of life have access to high-quality housing.

“The creation of formal housing developments and homeownership, in general, carry so many social and economic benefits to the homeowners, their families, the communities and Jamaica, by extension. Therefore, with each new housing development, we get one step closer to realising our collective goals as a country,” he told the gathering.

Spanning a total of 253 acres of land, in the vicinity of March Pen Road and Quarry Hill, the development is being recognised as one of the largest affordable housing solutions to be built in St Catherine, since the development of Greater Portmore in 1992.

Gary Howell, HAJ managing director, pointed out the need for the public to disregard suggestions that Catherine Estate is just another housing development,

“It is so much more than that. This project is creating well-planned, sustainable, and holistic houses for many of the people who would ordinarily not be able to afford their own homes. As a result of our collaboration with CHEC, we will ensure that 1,650 regular working-class Jamaican individuals and families will become proud homeowners, and that is something we should all celebrate,” he said.

CHEC Jamaica’s Country Manager Dangran Bi pointed out that decent and affordable housing is very important, if the country is aiming at building families.

“We are making that promise to build homes and create a community where Jamaicans will be proud to raise their families. We see all over the world how decent and affordable shelter is woven into better opportunities for children and their parents, and we are very happy to be working with the Government of Jamaica and the Housing Agency of Jamaica to provide this for almost 2000 families,” he said.

Catherine Estate will be developed in six phases, with 14 clusters. Each of which will be served by essential community amenities, such as side walks, grocery stores, recreational spaces and walking distance access to public transportation.

The development will also reserve land for the development of a primary school, secondary school, church, police station, health centre, and commercial facility.

Also attending the event were minister of state in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Alando Terrelonge; St Catherine Members of Parliament Fitz Jackson and Andrew Wheatley; and the Mayor of Spanish Town Norman Scott.

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