Nakia McMorris, senior manager for the Community Development and Corporate Communications arm of the Housing Agency of Jamaica Limited (HAJ) is encouraging investment into housing and supportive services for vulnerable communities, which she said, in the long run, are two factors that can contribute to addressing the issue of crime and violence in some of these communities.
“When I think of how much money Jamaica loses in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to crime every year, if only that level of funding could have been invested into comprehensively addressing the needs of the communities prior to the loss, there could have been such a difference, over the long-term. So the question is, do we start setting aside some money to cauterize the problem? At this stage, unfortunately, the loss of the GDP and spend to incrementally address the problem would have to occur simultaneously,” she said.
McMorris made the statement while addressing the Violence Prevention Alliance Steering Committee meeting where she was the guest speaker, recently.
She asserts that providing proper housing solutions along with the requisite support to persons living in vulnerable communities was one of many critical components to combating the country’s violent crime problem as she pointed out that there was no quick fix to the problem. She distinguishes violent crime because there are crimes occurring in affluent communities it’s just that it does not get the same attention, nevertheless, just as destructive.
She made reference to the success of the United States’ ‘Choice Neighbourhoods Programme’, which employs housing, people and neighbourhood development strategies to address blighted areas with dilapidated housing to transform the spaces into sustainable communities. She suggested that some of these strategies could be applied to Jamaica.
She also cited that another successful programme in Brazil, the ‘My House, My Life’ programme, which works to increase the production and acquisition of new housing units for the low-income population in Brazil. To achieve this objective, she said the programme creates special financing mechanisms to mobilize the private sector to build homes for this income bracket and implemented innovative arrangements of subsidy and finance for selected beneficiaries to acquire new homes accompanied with a strong social work component.
“Housing programmes are not a one size fit all model. There are some people that you can put into that (starter) housing unit and there are other people that you need to give four bedrooms, depending on the structure of their family. ” She pointed out noting that there is a psychosocial component to housing for all persons, no matter the socioeconomic background.
“Housing is more than just shelter” she said.