Kingston, Jamaica

Mapping Urbanization and Social Change

Government Sponsored Housing Schemes Between 1950-1960

Figure 1: Kingston in 1907 from Stark’s Jamaica Guide (Illustrated).

With the election of the political party People’s National Party leader Alexander Bustamante, the democratic system ensured social and economic change for Kingston. Between 1943 and 1960 the population of Kingston grew by 86 percent to 379,000, mostly due to unemployed rural African descendant Jamaicans moving to the city for work. (Clarke, 2006, p. 136) Because of the increase in population the housing problems increased drastically. Conditions were even worse in slums and unfortunately this just became a feature of the city’s socioeconomic system like unemployment. The government moved 3,752 squatters to settlements. The largest squatter settlements were in Trench Town, Dung Hill, and Kingston Pen formerly known as Back O’Wall. The conditions were deplorable. For example, only 1,282 squatter households had a bathroom at Back O’Wall. (Clarke, 2006, p. 139) Clarke (2006) adds, “Although overcrowded dwellings accounted for only just over a quarter of all the houses surveyed, they contained more than 40 percent of the population at an average density of 8.6 persons per house.”

Figure 2: Kingston housing schemes receiving government sponsorship between 1950-1960 from Kingston, Jamaica

In 1950, the Government Town Planning department was established in Kingston However, they didn’t intervene with urban planning to alleviate overcrowding. It wasn’t until the hurricane of 1951 that they took action. The British Government granted Jamaica 1.24 million pounds and a loan of 1.01 million pounds to rebuild housing and repair the damages the hurricane caused. Located in Kingston the Hurricane Housing Organization targeted areas for rebuilding, which most affected squatter camps with single room houses. (See Figure 2). Most of the buildings were constructed with wood stone and concrete. While people were rehoused the slum conditions weren’t addressed.

In 1955, when the People’s National Party (PNP) came to office, they provided a number of middle-income properties below market value in the areas of what is now Mona Heights to help the people.  In the 1960s, southeast Kingston was developed with the University, King’s House, and Up Park Camp. The eastern part of the Goffe grid became known as the private sector and one could find churches, cinemas, social clubs, and theaters.

Photo Credit:

Stark, J. H. (1898). Stark’s Jamaica guide (illustrated): Containing a description of everything relating to Jamaica of which the visitor or resident may desire information, including its history, inhabitants, government, resources, and places of interest to travellers with maps, engravings, and photo prints. Boston: J.H. Stark.


Map Credit:

Clarke, C. G. (2006). Kingston, Jamaica: Urban development and social change, 1692- 2002. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle.



Clarke, C. G. (2006). Kingston, Jamaica: Urban development and social change, 1692- 2002. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle.



This entry was posted on August 18, 2012 by and tagged , , , , .
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