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JIS News

The National Housing Trust (NHT) was established in 1976 under the National Housing Trust Act, to “add to and improve the existing supply of housing in Jamaica”. Thirty-four years later the Trust continues to fulfill its mandate by providing hope, in the form of serviced lots, scheme houses, loans for open market purchases of both land and houses, as well as other solutions.
Many contributors have seen their dreams of owning a piece of Jamaica come to fruition. However, Chairman of the Trust, Howard Mitchell, is concerned about persons who are unable to access loans although they are contributors.
Speaking at a JIS Think Tank recently, Mr. Mitchell reminded Jamaicans that the NHT is operated for the benefit of all its contributors, whatever their political stripe, and seeks to assuage their fears about the financial health of the housing giant which finances, or co-finances, up to 60 per cent of all housing solutions in Jamaica.
“I don’t want to take the position that the NHT is responsible for all housing for all Jamaicans. The fact is we are responsible for providing affordable housing solutions for all those who contribute to the Trust. At present, about 378,000 people contribute to the Trust. That is our prime responsibility,” he added.
“Our main focus, going forward, will be to provide housing solutions for the
64 per cent of contributors who are unable to afford housing above a certain amount. The trust needs for the next two to three years to focus on a lower level and a lower price of housing, because there are many of our contributors who cannot afford a house above $4 million,” Mr. Mitchell said.
The NHT is in fact making record investments in housing in Jamaica at this time, and this is expected to continue into the near future, according to Mr. Mitchell.
“By the end of the financial year, in March 2010, we will have spent $18.5 billion on housing for the financial year. This figure will be the highest in five years. In the coming financial year we expect to increase this expenditure to $24 billion. This will allow us to start schemes in places such as Longsville in Clarendon, Sevens and Hellshire (in St. Catherine),” he disclosed.
The NHT chairman said that for the current financial year, the NHT has started work on 3,241 housing solutions in schemes across the island, while some 1991 scheme units will be delivered to contributors in 2010/2011. He reminded contributors that the Trust also provides mortgage financing for qualified projects and individuals.
“We are also the main source of mortgage financing for the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ). If you add it up over the years, by my estimation, the NHT has provided about 60 per cent of all houses and housing solutions constructed in Jamaica,” he added.
But what benefits have the NHT provided for its contributors over the years and what has been the impact on their lives? The JIS sought answers from Jamaicans, from all walks of life, who have benefitted from the Trust.
“Well, you are assured that you can get a benefit after contributing for a while, and that you will be able to repay the loan as their interest rates are lower than those offered by the banks or building societies,” says Renee Mills, Programmes Coordinator of Jamaica Ecumenical Mutual Missions (JEMM).
Mrs. Mills is the mother of one child and a beneficiary of the trust, as were her parents before her.
“The NHT has done the job for which it was created,” she tells JIS News.
This is borne out by the figures. In fact by 1986, ten years after it had been established, the Trust had already allocated some 20,000 mortgage loans and provided housing solutions for an estimated 100,000 persons from all strata of the Jamaican society
One of those early beneficiaries was school administrator Dorothy Allen, who remembers that she received her house in Westmeade from the Trust more than 30 years ago.
“Westmeade was one of the first schemes build by the Trust. I remember when we got our house, we felt it was too small and the representative of the NHT told us that it would turn out to be one of the best units. I am still living in it,” she says.
“The NHT has really done a fine job of making housing available for its contributors,” she adds.
The NHT is now working to deliver and/or start construction on a number of housing solutions across the island.
According to Mr. Mitchell, the construction of some schemes began in 2009 and more construction will follow in 2010 and 2011.These schemes include starter and studio units, 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments, as well as townhouses. Since the beginning of 2009, the NHT has provided: 35 lots in Leeds, St. Elizabeth; 46 two-bedroom houses at Morris Meadows, Phase 3, St. Catherine; and 33 units in Unions Estate, Twickenham Park in St. Catherine.
A number of projects are now on hold due to infrastructure challenges. These include Cousins Cove in Hanover; Granville in Trelawny; Rosemount Phase 5 in St. James; Ridge Estate in St. Ann; and Eltham Farms, St. Catherine.