JIS News

Speaking to construction professionals earlier this year, Minister of Water and Housing, Dr. Horace Chang, reiterated that the construction sector will play a key role in the implementation of the Housing Policy.
“We are finally on the verge of putting in place a National Housing Policy, to bring order and cohesiveness to the sector. The Ministry is in possession of the final draft of the document, which will be considered by the Cabinet shortly and then tabled in Parliament,” Dr. Chang said then.
Government’s National Housing Policy (NHP), according to the 2009/2010 Housing Solutions Report of the Ministry, was developed out of the recognition that housing is inextricably linked to people’s physical and emotional survival and security.
The policy will promote sustainable and inclusive development of housing, while ensuring just distribution of land, shelter and services at affordable prices for all citizens, while placing emphasis on the needs of the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged.
The Ministry’s vision of “housing for all” is driven by a passion to house Jamaicans, and reinforced by Article 25:1 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states, in part, that individuals and families have a right to a way of life sufficient for their health and well-being.
“The goal of this Policy is to provide the enabling framework within which the Government of Jamaica can realize access to affordable, safe and legal housing solutions for all Jamaican by 2030,” says Dr. Chang.
He explained that the Policy specifically seeks to increase the supply of housing solutions to all sectors of the population, particularly the poor, while at the same time reducing the direct role played by government in the production of presidential solutions. He said that the aim of government is to ensure widespread home ownership opportunities, by developing functioning institutions in the private and public sector that can facilitate delivery of decent, safe and affordable housing solutions for all Jamaicans.
Government will also, the Minister says, maintain a fair and stable operating environment for the private property market, by ensuring adequate land supply and the provision of efficient supporting infrastructure.
The second Draft National Housing Policy and Implementation Plan was submitted to the Ministry by the consultants, consisting of experts from the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology (UTech/UWI Consortium) in February, 2010. After receiving this draft, the Technical Review Committee met on March 11, April 7 and April 20. The draft was also sent for comments to all Government Ministries, the National Housing Trust (NHT), the Jamaica Developers Association and other agencies directly or indirectly involved in the provision of housing.
The Technical Review Committee is now in the process of taking a final look at the document, which should be ready by the end of this year, according to Mrs. Paula Parkes, a senior director in the Ministry of Water and Housing.
Among the key proposals put forward by the crafters of the Policy are: the need for the provision of housing finance, housing subsidies and provision of affordable housing units.
The Policy suggests that new affordable mortgage arrangements, such as inflation-sensitive and shared equity, a revision of the secondary mortgage market, the increase in the supply of affordable funds and the participation of private sector financiers, form the foundation of new housing starts.
Dr. Chang says that the Ministry will also be making available more government-owned lands to be used for affordable housing projects, and is also asking that the private sector make their lands available for housing development and construction.
At the same time, the Ministry will look after the needs of some of the most vulnerable in the society, including those with special needs. Among the interventions being considered in this area, is an increase in the Disabled Facilities Grant, the provision of funding for emergency housing, which is required after a disaster, and facilitating the use of reverse mortgages for the elderly with the help of financial institutions.
The housing policy was crafted by a group of experts following the signing of a $21.6 million contract with the Ministry of Water and Housing, to formulate a National Housing Policy and Implementation plan, on June 17, 2008.