The late Honourable Donald Buchanan, former Minister of Water and Housing, stated in the 2004 Sectoral Presentation, that “home ownership is a Jamaican dream. “It confers on our people a sense of self and identity and undermines the collective sense of rootlessness, displacement and wandering that characterize the socio-historical condition common to Africans in the Diaspora.” Home ownership is a “collective space defined by a sense of place and stability.” As such every Jamaican has a dream of affordable and decent shelter.
Housing which provides physical shelter is one of the basic needs of human beings. It also addresses all the needs included in psychologist Abraham Maslow’s well-known hierarchy of needs: psychology, safety, belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Thus, houses are places created and used by people according to their behavioral patterns and living styles. In other words, it is a social, psychological and emotional place, and is perceived as the tool for individuals to settle down, be a family and sustain their existence across generations (Anonymous (a) 2003, Erzen 2006).
As stated by the Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller, in her address to the NHT during the celebration of their 30th anniversary, housing is critical in so many areas of life. She further went on to say that one cannot mention values and attitudes without addressing the issue of housing. In explaining her point, she maintained that Jamaica’s high incidence of carnal abuse is not totally unrelated to housing issues. Children are exposed to sexual activities from an early stage because they inhabit the same cramped space with adult family members. The poverty cycle is perpetuated when children do poorly in school as a result of inadequate housing accommodation which does not facilitate homework and study. Families need space so that they can have privacy, which is a basic human need. Thus, persons need the security of their own home.
Owning one’s own home is not solely about having somewhere to live. Owning a home is a commitment to strengthening families and good citizenship. It enables people to have greater control and exercise more responsibility over their living environment. It is also a commitment to community as it helps stabilize neighbourhoods and strengthen communities. Home ownership also creates important local and individual incentives for maintaining and improving private and public spaces.
Home ownership may also contribute to life satisfaction (Fannie Mae, 1999). This is so as buying a home is important for many persons and is seen as a rite-of-passage symbolizing that a person has achieved a certain economic status. Furthermore, with owning your own home comes added economic value as you have title to assets which in turn is proof of collateral when doing business. Thus, attaining this dream should increase an individual’s satisfaction with his or her life. The social status and personal freedom associated with home ownership may also lead to higher levels of self-esteem and perceived control over life, thus contributing to the owner’s psychological health. (Rohe and Stegma, 1994).
It is also posited that owning a home has societal impacts. It contributes to the overall health of social stability and involvement. Home ownership leads to social stability as home owners move less frequently than renters. Longer tenure and greater economic investment in their homes cause home owners to take better care of their properties, thus, contributing to the overall attractiveness of the area as well as to local property values. (Rohe and Stewart, 1996). Owning a home also leads to higher levels of participation in community and political activities as home owners seek to protect their economic and emotional investment in their communities.
Although it is evident that there is a basic need for home ownership, it is also evident...