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Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, says that providing affordable housing solutions for Jamaicans is a top priority for the Government.

"My administration is focused on getting houses and lands into the hands of as many persons as possible.  We are committed to giving priority status to housing for low-income earners,” she stated.

The Prime Minister was speaking at a function held on December 19 in Trelawny to officially launch the National Housing Trust’s (NHT) First Step Homes programme and hand over certificates of ownership to 73 serviced lots in the Hampden Heights Housing Development in the parish.

Under the First Step programme, the NHT will be collaborating with the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) and Food for the Poor, to provide starter homes for low-income earners and NHT contributors, who earn up to $7,500 per week.

Beneficiaries will receive a starter unit that can be easily converted into a two-bedroom home, with living and dining quarters and bathroom.  They will be required to complete the electrical works, including wiring, and install their own kitchen fixtures and other amenities. Each unit will cost approximately $1.1 million, excluding the cost of the land and infrastructure works.   

"This (project) is one of several Government initiatives to help transform the lives of Jamaicans, who have not been able to take advantage of home ownership opportunities in the past.  I commend Food for the Poor for partnering with government and the NHT on this initiative. Your expertise in providing low-cost houses will be of tremendous benefit,” the Prime Minister said.

She stated that the programme will also have positive spin-offs such as expanding housing in the short-term, boosting the Government’s employment initiative, and ensuring that the NHT remains true to its mandate. “With initiatives such as this, I believe we will reach the destination of a better life for the majority of our people,” the Prime Minister added.

Meanwhile, the Hampden Heights Housing Development, comprised of 288 lots, was established under the Sugar Workers Housing Programme at a cost of approximately $451 million.  The development, located near Bounty Hall, will benefit sugar workers at the Hampden Estates.

The Prime Minister said the opportunities provided under the Sugar Workers Housing Programme and First Step, will help fulfill a deep-rooted desire on the part of ordinary Jamaicans to own their own home.

"To a large extent, our history has been shaped by the strong desire of persons who were enslaved, to own a piece of ground and a roof over their heads,” she noted.

"Owning a home carries with it certain important advantages, such as providing a family with a measure of stability.  Owning your own home means you now own something concrete, something of value that you can pass on from one generation to another.  It establishes a solid economic foundation on which you can build and the opportunity for an improved quality of life for you and your family,” she pointed out further.

Since the start of the Sugar Workers Housing Programme by the NHT more than 10 years ago, the Trust has developed 2,327 lots and 459 studio units at a cost of $4.4 billion on eight sites. These are: Stokes Hall, New Yarmouth, Frome, Appleton, Monymusk, Bernard Lodge, Bellrock and Hampden.