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close this book Daughters of Sysiphus
close this folder Overview of findings and recommendations
View the document Household distribution
View the document Occupations and education
View the document Expenditure
View the document Savings and loans
View the document Density
View the document Tenure and mobility
View the document Physical and social infrastructure
View the document The building process

Tenure and mobility


Female heads of household seemed to have moved more often than other kinds of household head. This is probably because of their tendency to be reliant on rental accommodation which offers little security. However, one factor that had affected women in Central and Western Kingston during the 1970s was the influence of politics which had, in a number of cases, caused forced migration. This has proved less of a problem in recent years.

Information from the case studies suggested that the breakdown of conjugal relationships and the impact of pregnancy and childbirth were major contributors to the mobility of women. However, the large survey was not designed to deal with extensive longitudinal tracking and the legitimacy of this suggestion was impossible to determine on a more systematic basis. Further work is required in this area.


There are no legal impediments to women owning land in Jamaica. However, there are differences in the de facto access that different types of household have. Female heads of household demonstrated much lower land-ownership rates than other types of household heads and much higher rental rates. These differences were also apparent for dwelling tenure which often varies from land-tenure status.

There is a clear tendency for female-headed households to become trapped in a rental market which they can ill afford and which seriously undermines their ability to save, and amass the level of resources that are necessary either to own land or to capture it and develop it an informal development process. The lack of attention that policy-makers have given to both formal and informal rental markets only serves to make this growing problem among urban low-income households more invisible.

Interestingly. the current tenure differences between the three types of household were not reflected in the figures for previous tenure. Previous tenure was dominated by rental and family land, a situation which almost certainly reflects the tenure realities of the rural as opposed to urban areas. It appears that the shelter differences experienced by different types of household only emerge strongly within the urban setting where rates of female headship are higher.


One of the characteristic features of rental accomodation within Kingston's low-income areas is the prevalence of tenerment yards. Each yard contains a number of units providing accomodation for multiple households usually on a one-room one- household basis. The yard is normally an enclosed space where infrastructure is shared between the households. This form of shelter has proved extremely important for female heads of household. The shared infrastructure keeps water and sanitation costs low and the design of the yard also facilitates shared child care, enabling women to generate income outside the home. Unfortunately little attention has been paid to the preservation of the yard structure in low-income shelter solutions initiated by the public sector.


1. The majority of low-income households in the KMA. and female-headed households in particular, are dependent on the rental market for the provision of shelter. Contraction and price escalation within this market affect them severely. Attempts to control price escalation through rent controls often result in contraction so rent control is not necessarily an effective means of protecting the viability of rentals as a shelter option. However, government subsidies are Increasingly being targeted at owner-occupiers, thus bypassing a significant section of the low-income population. The whole question of rental housing should be addressed as a central part of housing policy. The current lack of attention to a form of tenure that nearly half of Kingston's female-headed households depend on is a clear example of gender insensitivity and should be redressed.

2. The slow pace with which minimally serviced sites are being developed as part of the National Shelter Strategy means that they are having very little impact on low-income shelter provision, and it is clear that squatting rates are increasing rather than falling. The prioritized development of a land-banking system and the framing of a comprehensive land policy are urgently required to provide the basis for a more equitable distribution of residential land. Without such a system, squatting will continue to accelerate and will result in growing environmental damage to land that could be developed safely.

3. Far more extensive urban upgrading programmes are needed, particularly in the inner-city areas. Concentrated and expensive improvements that only benefit a few households and that often lead to the displacement of many others are not the answer. Instead, developments that allow for incremental improvement in standards over time and that incorporate income-generating strategies for innercity residents should be considered.

4. Many low-income households rent because they cannot afford the down-payments necessary to own either land or a dwelling even if the land or the dwelling are subsidized developments initiated by the public sector. However, leasehold access does not require a down-payment and does provide a reasonably secure form of land tenure. More leasehold land schemes should be developed to provide secure tenure for low-income households, particularly in the early stages of their formation. A particular effort should be made to develop leasehold schemes that can offer shelter options to female heads of household, if necessary. on a quota system that reflects their prevalence in the rental market.

5. The yard functions as an important economic and social safety-net for female-headed households, particularly when the head of household is responsible for young children. Shared infrastructure and child care minimize the outlays that these households must make for such services. However there is no clear policy regarding the preservation of yard accommodation within the KMA or its replication in programmes to provide new housing. The development of such a policy should receive urgent attention.

6. Customary land law gave men and women life-long rights to use of family land. The impact of modern tenure law on the access that women, in particular, have to land should be researched with particular attention to the likely impact of recent land titling projects implemented by Government.