KINGSTON — The National Housing Trust (NHT) is to introduce a modified selection system for its Home Grant Programme, to make it more accessible for low income earners.
Chairman of the Trust, Howard Mitchell says that since the introduction of the programme in July 2010, 217 persons have been selected for Home Grants, but only 11 could afford to take up the offer.
"Home Grants use to be awarded under what we call the Priority Index Entitlement system (PIE), which takes into account the length of time you have been contributing, your income level and your nearness to the scheme," Mr. Mitchell explained.
"What we are going to do is, base the selection of Home Grants on the number of contributors within a county, and then apply the PIE system, which will give a better chance for the people who are selected to qualify. This should allow for a more equitable distribution of awards across the island,” he stated.
Mr. Mitchell was speaking at the Best Scheme Competition 2010/11 awards ceremony on Wednesday (November 9), at the NHT, New Kingston,
The Home Grant is a special offer, of up to $1.2 million, to NHT contributors now earning $4,070 – $10,000.99 per week and who do not yet own a home. The Grant must be combined with an NHT loan to build or to buy a house, but the combined funds should not exceed $3.6 million.
Mr. Mitchell also disclosed that beneficiaries of home grants will be able to obtain an additional loan for home repairs, while adding that the NHT will be extending the period of time for recipients to take up home grant, and allow for Home Grants to be used to purchase land.
"So, the combination of these should give greater accessibility to our people to own a home," he said.
Turning to the Best Schemes competition, Mr. Mitchell said it was formulated to “bring out the best of the best."
"It is about the good things in the human spirit and every time we approach the Best Scheme Competition, from the start of it throughout the year until the end, it is a great source of pleasure to watch people competing, honestly and enthusiastically towards a good end,” Mr. Mitchell observed.
Minister of Housing, Environment, Water and Local Government, Dr. Horace Chang, said that the Ministry was looking at making housing more accessible for public sector workers. He said that the idea was to involve private partners in providing housing for the public sector, on lands owned by government.
"We are looking at where lands are available, to see how we can expand our programme for public sector workers. The reality is that the country has never been able to reward its public workers, satisfactorily,” Dr. Chang stated.
Commenting on the Best Scheme Competition, Dr. Chang said he was proud to be associated with an initiative which recognizes persons for taking pride in the community in which they live.
"I congratulate you home owners of the 86 housing schemes. Today you are being rewarded for your efforts in environmental awareness, evidenced in the development of green areas within your communities. Your work in the promotion of education, good governance and healthy lifestyle and culture in the community is to be commended and, of course, encouraged,” Dr. Chang said.
The Best Schemes Competition began in 1993, and has given birth to several community- based programmes, such as homework centres, programmes for the elderly and community beautification projects.
The aim of the competition is to encourage community development in NHT Housing Schemes, through the implementation of projects in the areas of health, culture, education and environmental awareness.
The annual competition involves residents of housing schemes competing for selection as the top scheme, and earning prizes for their efforts.
The winner of this year’s competition was Angels Grove in St. Catherine, which received a trophy and a cash reward of $1 million. Delacree Park in Kingston and Mineral Heights in Clarendon placed second and third, respectively.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter