Risky ren­o­va­tions

Man­dev­ille home­own­ers put ten­ants at risk with build­ing ex­pan­sions

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Ta­mara Bai­ley Gleaner Writer

AS THE num­ber of univer­sity stu­dents and young pro­fes­sion­als mov­ing into Manch­ester con­tin­ues to rise, sev­eral home­own­ers have been ren­o­vat­ing their houses to cash in on the influx of prospec­tive ten­ants with­out thoughts of safety or the req­ui­site ap­provals for build­ing ex­pan­sion.

This prac­tice is cause for con­cern and first re­spon­ders have de­scribed these build­ings as ex­tremely haz­ardous.

The Gleaner vis­ited a num­ber of these mod­i­fied houses and sought to speak with the own­ers, but no one was in­ter­ested in speak­ing di­rectly on the is­sue.

Upon leav­ing one of the premises, off Cale­do­nia Road, the land­lord ac­knowl­edged that he was do­ing the ten­ants a favour. “You nuh si peo­ple want place fi live? The least mi can do a fix up my place and charge dem cheap cheap.” He then drove off. Sev­eral ten­ants ac­knowl­edged their com­pro­mised safety but cited af­ford­abil­ity as the rea­son for stay­ing. “Where I live, the land­lord has his quar­ters to the front and we have ours to the back of the build­ing. There are ap­prox­i­mately seven of us, and we are all ex­pected to use one en­trance and exit be­cause of how the house was built. The other en­trance would open up to the land­lord’s quar­ters, but he has closed it and blocked it off,” said a fe­male ten­ant. She added: “I know if there was to be a fire of some sort, there would def­i­nitely be a prob­lem. All the win­dows are barred, and that one en­trance-exit couldn’t work.”

When asked if she had spo­ken with her land­lord about her safety con­cerns, she said:

“Him know about it, but he is not go­ing to spend them kind a money deh to open up a sec­tion of the wall for an­other en­trance and exit. I’m re­ally just here be­cause the rent is af­ford­able and I can’t do bet­ter for now.”

For oth­ers, their ig­no­rance may work to their detri­ment.

“We have two gas cylin­ders in the kitchen, but I don’t think our safety is at risk. We have am­ple en­trances and ex­its to the build­ing, and sep­a­rate and apart from the mold, there’s no prob­lem,” said a univer­sity stu­dent.

Dur­ing a Gleaner Jobs and Growth Fo­rum held at the Man­dev­ille Ho­tel in the parish on Mon­day, Ro­han Pow­ell, act­ing deputy su­per­in­ten­dent of the fire sta­tion, re­counted an ex­pe­ri­ence he had with what could be called a tick­ing time bomb at a ren­o­vated house.

“It houses 15 stu­dents. In the kitchen, there are five stoves and each stove has a 25pound gas cylin­der at­tached to it. A part of the fire code tells us that no more than 30 pounds of gaso­lene should be stored in a build­ing. Now, that would be 125 pounds.” Ac­cord­ing to the sec­re­tary man­ager at the Manch­ester Parish Coun­cil, David Harris, the own­ers of these houses, who have not sub­mit­ted new plans to the coun­cil, are li­able for pros­e­cu­tion if they fail to com­ply.

THE BUSI­NESS en­vi­ron­ment in Man­dev­ille, Manch­ester, is tough, ac­cord­ing to Christopher Sa­muels, man­ager, per­sonal bank­ing at Sco­tia­bank, Cale­do­nia Road branch. But things are look­ing up, with a lot rid­ing on the re­open­ing of the Al­part baux­ite plant at Nain in neigh­bour­ing St El­iz­a­beth.

Sco­tia­bank is see­ing an uptick in ap­pli­ca­tions for per­sonal and com­mer­cial loans, with most of the lat­ter re­lated to the pur­chase or com­ple­tion of town houses and apart­ments out­side of the Manch­ester cap­i­tal.

“You have a num­ber of per­sons who had in­com­plete con­struc­tion, which they are seek­ing to com­plete now – apart­ments that they want to have ready just in case per­sons want to rent. So per­sons are look­ing be­yond Man­dev­ille, ex­pand­ing their busi­nesses in prepa­ra­tion for the spin-off of what the Chi­nese will do with the baux­ite in­dus­try. Some per­sons are po­si­tion­ing them­selves,” he told a Gleaner Jobs and Growth Fo­rum at the Man­dev­ille Ho­tel on Mon­day.

Fol­low­ing the pur­chase of the plant by Chi­nese com­pany Ji­uguan Iron and Steel (JISCO) from the Rus­sian firm UC Rusal, res­i­dents of neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ties have been buoyed by the prom­ise of thou­sands of jobs from the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­dus­trial zone. Upon com­ple­tion, it will com­prise baux­ite mines, an alu­mina re­fin­ery, a coal-fired power plant, a lo­cal elec­tric­ity net­work, rolling wire mills, and a range of alu­minium prod­ucts, among other en­ter­prises.

In July, the Govern­ment promised that at least 700 jobs would be cre­ated by this month, with at least an­other 3,000 over the next four years as a di­rect re­sult of the US$2 bil­lion in­vest­ment. In ad­di­tion to this di­rect em­ploy­ment, Manch­ester res­i­dents are look­ing to cash in on the an­tic­i­pated wind­fall from the 200 Chi­nese work­ers from over­seas, as well as de­sign­ers and con­trac­tors.

CREDIT BUREAU RE­PORTS

How­ever, many per­sons are fac­ing a chal­lenge from an un­ex­pected quar­ter: in­for­ma­tion from the credit bureau re­port­ing sys­tem.

“The ad­vent of credit-bureau re­port­ing is af­fect­ing per­sons so neg­a­tively,” Sa­muels dis­closed. With credit his­tory now open to scru­tiny by fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions from which per­sons seek loans, some old bad debts are com­ing back to haunt po­ten­tial bor­row­ers.”

The Sco­tia­bank ex­ec­u­tive ex­plained that many loan ap­pli­cants are only now find­ing out just how badly those long-past delin­quent ac­counts with in­sti­tu­tions such as the Govern­ment’s stu­dent loan fa­cil­ity or com­pet­ing banks can re­ally hurt them.

“Some per­sons be­lieve that they can just for­get about a debt, but it doesn’t work that way any­more. Be­fore, banks had to be fol­low­ing a cus­tomer, call­ing about their bad his­tory, and com­ing to a com­pro­mise set­tle­ment. But we find now that per­sons are be­com­ing bet­ter aware that the credit re­port is fol­low­ing them. Per­sons are more in­clined to seek to set­tle them, even though it may be 10, five years ago.”

IAN ALLEN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Ro­han Pow­ell, act­ing deputy su­per­in­ten­dent of the Ja­maica Fire Bri­gade, Manch­ester Di­vi­sion.

SA­MUELS

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Jamaica

© PressReader. All rights reserved.