JIS News

KINGSTON — Chairman of the National Housing Trust (NHT), Howard Mitchell,  says there should  be greater collaboration between public and private sector housing industry stakeholders  in the development of  more affordable  housing solutions, particularly low income options, to meet the country's needs.

Speaking at an NHT Roundtable Discussion at the agency's New Kingston offices on September  14, Mr. Mitchell noted that since its inception in 1976, the NHT has developed 83,000 housing solutions, which represent some 2,700 per annum. This, he pointed out, fell short of the 23,000 units initially projected, as well as current revised figure of between 13,000 and 15,000 solutions per annum.

The Chairman also cited the movement in prices over the last decade, which had seen the construction cost for an NHT designed two-bedroom unit increase from $1.13 million in 2002 to $4.15 million currently, pointing out that this represented a 267 per cent increase, excluding land costs.

In this regard, Mr. Mitchell said the agency has concluded that  now is an opportune time to "walk the walk," and move with urgency to address the "challenge of housing" in Jamaica.

"Official statistics are showing that the NHT is the prime housing provider in terms of starts, contributing an estimated 60 per cent of new solutions built. In terms of completions, the statistics also show that the NHT continues to be the main provider,"  he outlined.

While acknowledging and commending the work and efforts of the Ministry of Housing, Environment and Water, and the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) in providing solutions, particularly in the area of squatter settlement regularisation, Mr. Mitchell said he was "uncomfortable" with the NHT being regarded as the "be all and end all," in terms of  fulfilling the nation's housing needs, and invited private sector and other agencies to lend support to this effort.

This, the Chairman said, is necessary if the goals of the National Development Plan – Vision 2030 Jamaica – of positioning Jamaica  to attain developed country status, and make it the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business,  are to be realised.

"We have to face the challenge squarely. We cannot leave housing to the Government (not) even low income housing. A lot of people feel that there is no profit in low income housing and, therefore, the natural tendency of the private sector person is not to get involved. We want to examine what kind of housing we can afford. Can we lower our infrastructure standards and still offer safe, environmentally acceptable housing? These are questions we must ask," the  Chairman said.

Against this background, Mr. Mitchell announced plans by the NHT to host a housing fair and forum in 2012, in a bid to explore these issues.

The forum, which was held under the theme: ‘Conversations with the NHT', was attended by a wide cross-section of private and public sector stakeholders in the housing industry. It was aimed at facilitating discussions and presentations on the delivery of more affordable solutions to the market.

By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter