Thought Leadership Piece: Understanding Jamaica’s National Housing Policy (July 2019)

Thought Leadership Piece: Understanding Jamaica’s National Housing Policy (July 2019)

Housing is a fundamental human right, critical to both physical and emotional well-being. In Jamaica, the need for an effective and inclusive housing policy has never been more urgent. The National Housing Policy of July 2019 is a comprehensive blueprint designed to address the country's housing challenges and ensure that all Jamaicans have access to safe, affordable, and legal housing solutions by 2030. This thought leadership piece delves into the core aspects of the policy, its objectives, and how it aims to transform Jamaica's housing landscape.

Vision and Guiding Principles

The vision of the National Housing Policy is succinct yet powerful: “A country within which all Jamaicans have access to safe, sanitary, legal, and affordable housing solutions.” This vision is anchored in the broader mandate of Vision 2030 Jamaica, which aims to promote safe, sanitary, and affordable shelter for all citizens.

The policy is built on five guiding principles:

  1. Fairness and Equity: Ensuring all Jamaicans have equal access to housing opportunities.
  2. Quality and Affordability: Promoting high standards in housing construction while keeping costs manageable.
  3. Partnership and Participation: Encouraging collaboration between government, private sector, and communities.
  4. Transparency and Accountability: Maintaining clear and open processes in housing development and distribution.
  5. Sustainability: Prioritizing environmentally friendly and long-lasting housing solutions.

Objectives and Policy Measures

The National Housing Policy aims to tackle the housing crisis through several strategic objectives and policy measures. These include increasing the supply of affordable housing, expanding housing finance options, and improving the regulatory framework.

1. Increasing Housing Supply

To meet the growing demand, the policy sets a target of producing at least 15,000 new housing units annually up to 2030. Achieving this target involves:

  • Identifying and Designating Land: Allocating adequate land for housing in urban and peri-urban areas.
  • Encouraging Private Sector Participation: Providing incentives to private developers to build affordable housing units.
  • Promoting Mixed-Use Developments: Integrating residential, commercial, and recreational spaces to create vibrant communities.

Example: In the heart of Kingston, a new mixed-use development could include affordable apartments, retail spaces, and a community park, offering residents convenient access to amenities and fostering a sense of community.

2. Housing Finance

Access to affordable housing finance is crucial for many Jamaicans. The policy promotes innovative financing options to make homeownership more accessible:

  • Affordable Mortgage Instruments: Introducing inflation-sensitive and shared equity mortgages.
  • Secondary Mortgage Market: Increasing the supply of affordable funds through a secondary mortgage market.
  • Micro-Finance Institutions: Supporting small loans for low-income families, allowing incremental housing improvements.

Example: A young professional couple might benefit from a shared equity mortgage, where they co-own the property with a financial institution, reducing their initial costs and monthly payments.

3. Housing Subsidies

Subsidies are essential to bridge the affordability gap for low-income families. The policy proposes several measures:

  • Supply-Side Subsidies: Providing tax relief and other incentives to developers building low-income housing.
  • Demand-Side Subsidies: Offering grants and down-payment assistance to first-time homebuyers.
  • Cross-Subsidies: Using profits from higher-priced units to subsidize lower-cost units within the same development.

Example: In a new housing project, luxury apartments might be sold at market rates, while a portion of the profits subsidizes the cost of affordable units for lower-income families.

4. Planning, Management, and Governance

Effective planning and governance are critical to the success of the housing policy. Key initiatives include:

  • National and Regional Plans: Developing comprehensive plans that outline housing needs and strategies at both national and regional levels.
  • Institutional Coordination: Ensuring that various government agencies work together seamlessly to implement housing projects.
  • Regulatory Reforms: Streamlining the approval process for housing developments and enhancing enforcement of building standards.

Example: A new regional housing plan might identify specific areas for development, outline infrastructure needs, and coordinate efforts between the National Housing Trust (NHT), local authorities, and private developers.

5. Legislation and Regulation

The policy emphasizes the need for robust legal frameworks to support housing development:

  • Local Government Reform: Empowering local authorities to manage housing projects more effectively.
  • Zoning Regulations: Updating and enforcing zoning laws to facilitate urban renewal and prevent urban sprawl.
  • Tenant Protection: Revising the Rent Restriction Act to better protect tenants' rights and encourage rental housing development.

Example: A revised Rent Restriction Act could provide clearer guidelines on rent increases and tenant evictions, making rental housing a more secure option for many families.

Addressing Squatting

Squatting remains a significant issue in Jamaica, with many families living in informal settlements. The policy proposes several measures to address this:

  • Regularizing Squatter Settlements: Legalizing and improving existing informal settlements to provide residents with secure tenure and access to basic services.
  • Preventing New Squatting: Implementing proactive measures to prevent the formation of new squatter settlements through timely provision of affordable housing.

Example: In a squatter settlement near Montego Bay, the government could provide legal titles to residents, upgrade infrastructure, and integrate the community into the formal housing market.


The National Housing Policy of July 2019 represents a bold and comprehensive approach to addressing Jamaica's housing challenges. By focusing on affordability, accessibility, and sustainability, the policy aims to ensure that every Jamaican has a safe and secure place to call home. Through innovative financing, strategic planning, and collaborative efforts, the policy sets the stage for a brighter future in which housing is a cornerstone of national development and social equity.


The information provided in this document is for educational and informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with a qualified attorney or housing expert for specific advice related to their individual circumstances. The views expressed in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any government agency or organization mentioned.

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