JIS News

The Housing arm of the Ministry of Water and Housing, has continued its mandate to provide affordable, safe, and legal housing to all Jamaicans by 2025.
Led by Dr. Horace Chang, a medical doctor, who is supported by Minister of State, E. Everald Warmington, and Permanent Secretary, Genefa Hibbert, the Ministry has taken seriously, its plans to facilitate the provision of affordable housing solutions to Jamaicans, by taking steps to lay the foundations for major developments and initiatives across the island.
Among the agencies operating under the purview of the Housing portfolio, and which have responsibility for the provision of shelter solutions, are the Jamaica Mortgage Bank and the National Housing Development Corporation, which was revamped in September 2008, and renamed the Housing Agency of Jamaica.
Beneficiaries of Government housing schemes in St. Mary, who were without certificates of title, began getting this document with the assistance of officials of the Ministry and a team from the Legal Department of the Ministry, who visited Annotto Bay on Friday, March 7 to facilitate the process.
The schemes involved were Dover, Cape Clear, Gibraltar, Fort George, and Fort Stewart. Many residents of these schemes were without titles, rendering them insecure in their tenure.
In May, Minister Chang announced that some of the functions of the Social Housing Unit of the Ministry are to be carried out under the aegis of the Constituency Development Fund, which allocates $40 million to each of the 60 Members of Parliament, to undertake development work in their constituencies.
The Technical Services Unit of the Ministry, was charged with looking at new housing models to help resolve the chronic inner city decay.
“The Unit has demonstrated its capacity to design solutions to facilitate urban renewal, and they will be working closely with the National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC) on this effort,” Dr. Chang told the nation during his contribution to the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on June 4.
He said at the time, that the NHDC would commence work to put much needed infrastructure in sections of Norwood, Flankers, and Barrett Hall in St. James.
Dr. Chang also mentioned two pilot renewal projects that are being undertaken at the Albion Tenement in St. James, and the Olympic Gardens Community Centre in St. Andrew.
The Minister said that the tenement was constructed to temporarily house persons displaced by Hurricane Charlie in 1951, and some 57 years later, “words cannot even come close to describing the abject squalor in which the persons were living.”
On June 17, Dr. Chang signed a $21.6 million contract with the University of Technology (UTech), for the preparation of a National Housing Policy and Implementation Plan.
The Policy and Implementation Plan, which will be formulated jointly by the University of the West Indies (UWI) and UTech, will facilitate the Government’s vision of access to adequate, legal and affordable housing for all Jamaicans. In addition, it will give direction to the housing sector by addressing issues pertaining to housing supply and demand, affordability, financing, investment, squatting, as well as streamline the operations of existing housing agencies involved in the development process.
The Plan is expected to be presented to the Ministry by the end of January.
In the mid-2008, Minister Chang hosted the Gore Consortium Group, which presented a report looking at the housing demand by hotel workers on the North Coast.
Dr. Chang commended the preparatory work done and noted that it provides a “good indication of where we ought to go on the North Coast, and certainly a good database on which to start planning.”
“There is more work to be done, but this is an excellent start and will help us to plan how to cauterise the continuing problem of squatting on the North Coast,” he continued in an interview with JIS News.
Dr. Chang said this work ties in with that being done by the Ministry. “Yes, this definitely enhances and supports the work we are doing here,” he stated.The plans which the Ministry put in place for the first year of its operation include: serviced lots for persons to erect their own houses at a pace they can afford; build-on own land solutions to assist persons to build on lands they already own;housing schemes targeted at different levels of affordability and facilitating open market purchases.
The plans also include upgrading and security of tenure for selected informal settlements; facilitating orderly relocation of informal settlers to new sites where permanent settlement is not feasible, improvement and expansion of existing dwellings; providing houses for the indigent, preventing the emergence of new informal settlements, re-establishing a settlement upgrading programme to provide basic infrastructure (roads, water, and sanitation), and secure tenure where settlements can be regularised based on planning and environmental considerations; and providing alternative sites with basic infrastructure for the relocation of informal settlers where regularisation is not feasible and for would-be squatters to erect their houses on a secure-tenure basis.
The Ministry is also considering some financing solutions to the housing problems of the nation. Among the solutions being considered are:
Developing the secondary mortgage market to enable Government mortgage holders such as the National Housing Trust, Jamaica Mortgage Bank, National Housing Development Corporation, and the Ministry of Housing, to sell mortgage to raise funds to finance new housing solutions; leveraging funds from private sector mortgage companies, such as building societies, to expand the pool of funds available to finance new housing solutions.Introducing shared equity mortgages to meet the affordability needs of the target population with the lender retaining up to 40 per cent equity to be liquidated in not more than 10 years; amending the National Housing Trust Act, to provide that NHT funds can be used only for the provision of mortgage benefits to its contributors, portfolio investments and operating expenses and eliminate the practice of Government using the funds for other purposes.
Funding made available by the NHT for other purposes, including inner city housing for non-contributors must be made through intermediaries with the appropriate security or guarantee and must form part of its portfolio of investments.
The Ministry is to establish a Guaranteed Mortgage Entitlement System, under which every contributor, after a qualifying period, will be entitled to a mortgage benefit, calculated on a formula determined by actuarial assessment, to end the frustration of contributors who make mandatory contributions, but are unable to secure a benefit. Contributions would be refundable after a specified period if the guaranteed mortgage entitlement is not accessed.
Incentives will also be provided for private sector housing development, and for private developers, and companies to provide housing solutions for low-income families and in depressed communities.
The Ministry will be conducting research to develop and promote the use of cheaper building materials and methods.
With respect to rental, the Ministry is to review the Rent Restriction Act and make appropriate amendments to encourage the provision of houses for rent. In the meantime, plans are in place to expand the Inner-City Housing Project (ICHP), in targeted communities.
Additionally, the Ministry has well advanced plans to establish a multi-agency programme, to upgrade the rundown infrastructure in the inner-cities with special emphasis on roads, water supply, sanitation, electricity, and neighbourhood sporting facilities.