With Sea-Level Rising Is Prime Real Estate In Jamaica Near The Coastline or Hilly-Inland?


The evidence of Global Warming in Jamaica is everywhere:

  • Hotter temperatures.
  • Prolonged droughts & heatwaves.
  • Dry river beds.
  • Beaches disappearing (case in point, Hellshire in Portmore).

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Hellshire Beach, Portmore Jamaica in 2019. Source: OB Fitness.


Hellshire Beach, Portmore Jamaica in 2019. Source: OB Fitness


Hellshire Beach, Portmore Jamaica in 2023. Source: Google Maps| Linbert Reid| Retrieved September 1, 2023.


Annual water-lock-offs due to reduced recharge of wells from fresh groundwater, and rainwater, is a commonality; and agricultural price volatility absorbed by the farmer-consumer is an inescapable reality. Yet, there remains a strong thrust in infrastructural development, specifically of:

  • Hotels & Resorts along beaches within resort towns (Ocho Rios, Negril, Montego Bay).
  • High-Rise Commercial buildings within & along the periphery of metropolitan areas of Kingston & St.Andrew, and St. James.
  • Highways adjacent to the low-lying coastline (sections of St. Thomas, Portland St. Ann, Kingston, St. Mary, Trelawny, Hanover, St. Elizabeth Westmoreland.
  • Multistoried Residential Buildings & Gated Communities in the outskirts of, or within the metropolis (for example Mona, Widcombe Road, Jacks Hill, Wellington & New Kingston in St. Andrew).

Why is this case?

Is it that for these infrastructural developments (predominantly near the coastline) a high-level of engineering, policy & regulatory consideration is in place to mitigate the effects of the global environmental change currently experienced throughout the masses; and projected to happen within the century?


What Are Motivational Factors For Real Estate Value Across Jamaica?

The bulk of Jamaica’s foreign exchange is earned through tourism. This has been the case for decades (think back to the founder of the Sandals brand, Butch Stewart). Highways act as the connectors to the economic pump of a commercial region (case in point hotels which is major source of employment & foreign exchange for Jamaica’s formal labour force). Through highways, commute time lessens, and productivity increases (supposedly). Similarly with improved road network, and defined employment geographic regions, residential zones are established/defined. And as the demand for land increases/decreases (for commercial, or residential purposes), real estate market value is determined.

Sandals Resorts, Jamaica| Source: Sandals.com| Retrieved September 1, 2023

Geo-Descriptive Overview of Jamaica’s Urban Construct of Towns Near Coastline & In Hilly-Inland Areas

Jamaica, with its multiple towns throughout its 14 parishes, which function as multiple urban nuclei (in population density and the built landscape), closely mimics the multiple nuclei model of urbanization.

A high number of the towns throughout the country is located at relatively less than 20m above sea level, near the coastline: (Albion, Port Antonio, Ocho Rios, St. Ann’s Bay, Black River, Downtown Kingston, Portmore, etc); and on relatively flat terrain (flood plain, depression, horst & graben) in hilly- inland areas (Linstead, Christiana, Mandeville, Santa Cruz, Browns Town, Spaulding, Moneague). Hilly inland towns are considered as those located 100+metres above sea-level.

Downtown Kingston Waterfront Construction| Source: Jamaica Gleaner| Retrieved September 1, 2023

How Much Is Sea-Level Rising & Why Is It A National Concern To Jamaica & Jamaicans Real Estate, As Well As Other Countries Like Jamaica?

Global mean sea level has risen about 8–9 inches (21–24 centimeters) since 1880. The rising water level is mostly due to a combination of melt water from glaciers and ice sheets and thermal expansion of seawater as it warms. In 2021, global mean sea level was 97 millimeters (3.8 inches) above 1993 levels, making it the highest annual average in the satellite record (1993-present). Past and future sea level rise at specific locations on land may be more or less than the global average due to local factors: ground settling, upstream flood control, erosion, regional ocean currents, and whether the land is still rebounding from the compressive weight of Ice Age glaciers. Climate Change: Global Sea Level Climate Change: Global Sea Level| Retrieved September 1, 2023

The loss of beach is significant; it is estimated at 0.26 metres per year for Jamaica with sea level rise and post-storm events. And the beach retreats at about 100 times the rate of sea level rise. Of the nine beaches looked at in the research, the fastest eroding were “Negril (Westmoreland) at 0.76 metres per annum, Old Harbour Bay (St Catherine) at 0.74 metres per annum, and Long Bay (Portland) at 0.36 metres per annum”. The rising tide is also challenging for the country’s fresh-water security. Disappearing Beaches!|Jamaica Gleaner| Retrieved September 1, 2023

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Real estate as an attractive investment option, is premised on good location & appreciation potential. With a 10 year increased average coastline inundation, due to sea-level rise, at 2.6m, being a reality, I see significant investment risk in real estate, along or near the coastline.

Think about it, in this context, by the time newborn today is 20 & 30 respectively, the coastline of Jamaica will be inundateted a further 5.2m & 7.8m respectively. At high tide, and during storm events (hurricanes), inundation will be further inland. This also means further inland movement of the saltwater table (due to sea-level rise & groundwater pumping of fresh-water aquifers, near coastline), and greater reduction of fresh-water table for population usage (near coastline), due to saltwater contamination risk.

With Saltwater Contamination Near The Coastline & Inundation Risk Increasing, Does This Make Real Estate In Hilly-Inland Areas More Attractive?

Don’t be so hasty in arriving at this conclusion. For hilly-inland areas, topography, relief & geology are major geo-determinants of: fresh-water accessibility & aavailability. And real estate expansion for commercial & residential purposes. In other words, geo-hazards predominate.

When you add the meteorologic changes brought on by climate change, such as prolonged droughts & increased rainfall intensity. And combine with human alterations of the landscape, such as natural vegetation removal and hillslope alteration for buildings & roads construction, what we can now experience are:

  1. Increased erosion of landscape (due to water & gravity) altered by the real estate.
  2. Increased flooding risk (rivers, paved-surface run-off) of communities/towns at varying inland locations due to reduced lag time-a consequence of vegetation at hillslopes.
  3. Increased landslippage (mass movement) risk.
  4. Increased risk, and/or incidence of fresh groundwater contamination through sewerage transport, wastewater plant locations, agricultural fertilizer usage, and/or animal waste production; and solid waste.

Gregory Bennett Photo
Flooding at wards avenue in Mandeville| Source: Jamaica Gleaner| Retrieved September 1, 2023


Aerial View of Mandeville Showing Nearby Hill| Source: Google Maps


Caves (carbonate geology) Are Common Sources of Subsurface Waterflow).


Igneous & Metamorphic Geology are Common Sources of Surface Waterflow

Significant Work In Research, Policy & Regulatory Development, Enforcement and Public Education Needed For Jamaica’s Sustainable Real Estate Value & Population Management

The discussion herein reveal the complexity towards Jamaica (and other countries like Jamaica), attaining & preserving its real estate value-whether near the coastline or hilly-inland-with a changing climate, and increasing sea-level, for decades to come. No doubt, the fast pace of environmental change & population aging, bring with it a series of complexities to consider, for the decision-maker, whether it be at: the policy, administrative or investment level.

Read: Activities of Daily Living. Aging. Dysfunction. And Population Challenges.

Continuous Multidisciplinary collaboration between researchers, decision-makers and market (research) towards: policy, regulation development (specific for the time), enforcement & industry should not be skipped or short-stepped. This is the best way for us to preserve Jamaicas potential for appreciating real estate, whether it be near the coastline, or hilly-inland, for years to come.


About The Author

Oshane Bryant: BSc Geology, Geography Minor; ACE CPT since 2012; Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) Accelerator Graduate-2018 cohort; Licensed KUKIBO Martial Arts & Self Defense, Senior Instructor; OB Fitness Founder & Managing Director.

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