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JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Dr. Guy says this is being done through a mixture of public/private partnerships, private development and state initiatives.
  • A number of housing projects have been implemented, while others are set to come on stream.
  • The Government is not asked or required to come up with any funding but to come to the table with the land as equity.

The Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, has been moving to implement the government’s strategic priority of providing affordable housing solutions for Jamaicans since the start of financial year 2013/14.

Portfolio Minister with responsibility for Housing, Dr. Morais Guy, told JIS News that this is being done through a mixture of public/private partnerships, private development and state initiatives.

To this end, a number of housing projects have been implemented, while others are set to come on stream. One such initiative is the Bernard Lodge Estates Development comprising 1,584 housing solutions, which will be built in five phases. The development entails studios and one-bedroom units.

“The first two phases will start this year and we will see about over 700 units being constructed, one bedroom as well as studio units,” Dr. Guy said. Phases three, four, and five, are slated for completion by mid-2016.

Also, ground was broken for the construction of 590 housing solutions in the Whitehall Phase 3 Housing Development in Negril, Westmoreland, at a cost of some $390 million.

The project will see the construction of 173 studio units and 417 serviced lots mainly for hotel workers, young professionals, and first time home owners. Work is already underway and is expected to be completed within nine months.

“We appreciate that there has not been any significant attempt to satisfy that segment of the market and this is the first of many to come because we have also entered into Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with other private sector developers to do one in Hanover and another in St. Ann, and we are looking at developing more of these,” Dr. Guy said.

Public/Private Partnerships

He informs that the Government is partnering with private developers to provide housing solutions for other segments of the population.

“Very shortly, you will hear of one such in St. Catherine, there is going to be another one in Grange Pen in St. James and there is the Gardens of Irwin in Montego Bay, which we have facilitated and those will be exclusively done by a private sector company,” he said.

Minister Guy further commented that “there are a few MOUs that are going to Cabinet, which would involve other areas in Portmore for development such as Shooters Hill, and another area beside Portmore Villa.”

“Those in Shooters Hill will be one and two bedroom houses as well as some apartment or townhouses, and Portmore Villa will be one and two bedroom houses and townhouse complexes,” he said.

He explained that for these private/public partnerships, the Government is not asked or required to come up with any funding but to come to the table with the land as equity.

“The developer comes with his cash to put his money where his mouth is in terms of the development and at the end of the day the profits will be shared accordingly. Targeted will be middle income and lower income as best as the mortgage affordability can be in terms of their monthly requirements,” Dr. Guy said.

Already, there have been successful projects through public/private partnership, including the Caymanas Country Club Estate in St. Catherine, the first phase of which opened on October 23.

The development, a partnership between New Era Homes 2000 Limited and the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), entailed the construction  of 684 two and three bedroom houses by  New Era on lands acquired from the UDC.

A total of 264 units were provided during the first segment of the project, while an additional 420 will be provided under phase two.

Indigent Housing

The Government is working with agencies such as Food for the Poor to provide housing for indigent persons.

Minister Guy said some 1,200 wooden units are being constructed per year to meet the needs of this segment of the population.

He also mentioned that Food for the Poor, through an agreement with the National Housing Trust (NHT), is to build one bedroom concrete units for the NHT’s First Step Programme, which is targeted at persons earning $5,000 to $7,500 per week.

“So, this is addressing the segment of those who would not normally qualify for a house in the typical housing scheme that the NHT would be building simply because the amount that those houses would cost would be far out of their reach,” the Minister points out.

Urban Renewal

Under the Ministry’s Urban Renewal Programme, steps are being taken to redevelop Government apartment buildings, which have fallen into a state of decrepitude. The aim is to improve and generate low income housing remedies and provide security of tenure.

So far, work has begun in Albion Tenements in St. James, where 30 units, at a cost of $63 million have been built in Phase One. The project is now in Phase Two, where another 18 units are being constructed at a cost of $47 million.

NHT Online Application

The NHT is set to make major improvements in its delivery of products and services, with a new online application system for schemes. NHT customers applying for a scheme benefit will no longer be required to submit a paper-based application form but will now submit their applications online via its website, www.nht.gov.jm.

Manager in charge of the Westmoreland and Hanover Region, Norris Rainford, says the online application system is part of efforts to make it easier for customers to do business with the NHT.

“Our customers will be able to apply for their scheme benefits 24 hrs a day at anytime that is convenient to them and on any day of the week including weekends or outside of regular office hours,” Mr. Rainford said.

“Additionally, because the data gathering or the actual information itself will be presented electronically, we are of the opinion that it will shorten the processing time for the collection of information and, by extension, the turnaround time to get back to the applicants, who were successful and who may have not been,” he added.

The online system will be rolled out when the NHT begins accepting applications for lots and solutions at its Hellshire Phase 4 development. Applications will be accepted November 11to 13, 2013.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, broke ground for the Hellshire development in April 2012, which will comprise 130 two-bedroom units, 50 three-bedroom units and 46 serviced lots, and will be ready and handed over by January 2014.

Jamaica Mortgage Bank

As it relates to the operations of the Jamaica Mortgage Bank, Dr. Guy indicated that funding is being sought to facilitate the bank to be an engine of growth for the development of houses.

“We are continuing to look to provide low cost funding for these houses; but we are doing more than that. We are also seeking to enter into arrangements with primary mortgage entities to provide short-term home loans for people, who may need to get deposit on houses,” he said.

He added that the Ministry has received Cabinet’s approval for a proposed amendment to the Mortgage Insurance Act, aimed at making mortgages more accessible for persons seeking to acquire a home.

Dr. Guy said this will allow for an increase from 90 to 97 per cent, the Mortgage Indemnity Insurance coverage of the appraised value, and for premium rates to become “more flexible”.

“We feel that this move will allow for a lower deposit to be paid in purchasing a house and we feel that this will facilitate a greater number of individuals access to purchasing the house,” he noted.

As at April 2013, the JMB has nine projects in the pipeline with a combined value of $1.2 billion.

Under the Construction Financing Programme, the bank will finance up to 80 per cent of the infrastructure and house construction cost to developers.  It also intends to finance over 4,000 housing solutions under its Construction Financing Programme over the next five years.