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The National Housing Trust (NHT) will be seeking to achieve significant reductions in construction costs to lower the price of houses to contributors.

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. Morais Guy, said the move is part of efforts to meet the demand for some 400,000 houses.

“The Government recognises that this has to be the approach in order to provide even more benefits for existing contributors and for the Trust to be in a position to cater to the housing needs of new and prospective contributors,” he stated.

The Minister was speaking at an award ceremony for participants in the Trust’s Architectural Design Challenge for affordable housing, held on Thursday (June 20) at the NHT car park on Knutsford Boulevard.

He noted that the drive to reduce housing costs demands greater reliance on innovation in design and building systems.  “These innovations must be geared towards developing new methods and materials for building that ensures quality, durability, construction integrity and pleasant aesthetics, while significantly reducing cost,” he noted.

Dr. Guy, who has responsibility for housing, stated that while the Government is a significant stakeholder in the business of housing the nation, it cannot do it alone, and requires the input of all players in the search for solutions.

Managing Director of the NHT, Cecile Watson, stated that the demand for affordable housing, especially from lower income earners, “is now a burning imperative”. She said the housing sector needs more varied options especially for persons earning between minimum wage and $10,000 weekly.

Jamaicans in the low income group account for roughly 47 per cent of the NHT’s contributor base.

While these persons are able to access NHT loans of up to $1.7 million, the Trust’s research indicates that the construction cost for an NHT-designed habitable unit is approximately $3.2 million.

“Times such as these force us to ask questions such as how can we do things better or differently to get maximum results from the resources we have. We have taken an important step in stimulating the thinking in delivering more affordable housing at lower price points through designing differently,” Mrs. Watson stated.

The Architectural Design Challenge required entrantsto submit designs for houses to accommodate a minimum one child and one adult, with the potential for expansion to accommodate two adults and two children.

The low cost designs to emerge from the competition could possibly produce a unit larger than an NHT studio for less than $3.2 million, therefore making it accessible to single low income applicants.

The competition also required that entries reflect the use of materials that are accessible, durable, abundant, affordable and available locally.

A total of 30 entries were received for the competition held from October 14 to  December 14, 2012, with the team of Yanique Powell-Green, Camiel Stanbury and Cleon Meikle emerging the winners and copping the top prize of $400,000.

Garfield Wood and Francois Munda received $200,000 for their second place design, while Mark Taylor, who placed third, took home $100,000.

By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter