Often we think about how Jamaica makes it difficult for people to achieve things we often look at the outer extreme of poverty. Centring those who live in extreme poverty is important since they are most often ignored in many aspects.
Only using that experience as a lens to understand Jamaica, however, leaves some other people out of the conversation and limits our understanding of what needs to be changed. And how we make independence and upward movement near impossible for each other in our own unofficial policies and preferences.
For example, the standard in Jamaica is that a person needs to provide first, last, and one month deposit before they can move into a home. That’s three month’s rent they need to have ready to go in advance on top of moving costs, application costs for light and water and cable and internet etc on top of cost of furniture.
Even if a person decides to tough it out and sleep on a mattress on the floor they still have to provide three months rent before they can get to the four walls. So for a rent of JMD 25000 per month I must first have 75000 put down just so to hand over before I can get the key. Now this may seem like a small amount for some but for a person who is only working 75000 or even less per month, who had to move to another parish for the job, who is currently cotching on a couch and good will, who perhaps also has a kid to feed or a parent…that’s a lot of money that will take a long time to amass.
and why do we do it? it’s not the official policy. and even people who have never had a negative experience with renters will demand it.
we do it because like most other things the Jamaican renter system is mercenary and developed to benefit the (historically white/wealthy/landed) owner while taking advantage of and pathologizing the (historically black, poorer) renter.
I get it, you need protection in case you place mash up. but you also walk into people place to conduct random checks as you have a feeling…or perhaps if you were doing maintenance like you should you would know what was happening before the person moves out.
people, we claim that we want ‘di yutes’ to do good or rather blame them for not seeking independence. But so many of our policies make life unliveable for people who don’t come from money or earn ’nuff money or who can’t call on parents to back them up.
we can do better.