JIS News

The National Housing Trust (NHT) will be spending $22 billion on housing solutions this year and providing mortgage loans to 7,899 beneficiaries.
Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding, who made the announcement in his contribution to the 2009/10 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives today (May 5), said the Trust will be working in conjunction with the Ministry of Water and Housing, the Housing Agency of Jamaica, Sugar Workers Housing, Urban Development Corporation (UDC), and private developers, to achieve the stated objectives.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister stated that the NHT is returning to profitability, with the agency recording a surplus of more than $600 million last year.
He credited this positive development to steps taken to ensure the viability of the agency, including increasing the mortgage rates for persons in the higher income brackets, and reducing the amount spent on new housing projects.
In 2008, the NHT spent $19 billion on housing solutions and provided new mortgage loans to 6,125 beneficiaries.
Responding to a call from the Opposition Leader, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller for special concession for homeowners, who were becoming the victims of foreclosures, the Prime Minister said that at the end of March 2009, both the number and the percentage of mortgages falling into arrears, declined by two per cent compared to March last year. The number of mortgages that were foreclosed also fell significantly from 101 to 61, he indicated.
In December 2008, the Prime Minister had announced that the NHT would give special consideration to mortgagers, who lost their jobs and fell into arrears, and would work with them to avoid foreclosure.
“Up to the end of March, 197 requests were received, 66 were approved, 28 denied, 10 withdrawn, and 83 are still being evaluated. I also checked with the building societies and found the similar situation. There was a slight increase (seven per cent) in mortgages falling into the 31-60 days category, a significant decline (44 per cent) in the 61-90 days category and a small decline (5 per cent) in arrears beyond 90 days,” Mr. Golding informed the House.
He added “there will always be cases of forfeiture, but the facts do not support the claim that there has been a spike in the build up of arrears or in foreclosures.”
The Prime Minister also announced that the Ministry of Water and Housing and the National Water Commission (NWC) will commence work on a major water supply project, which will expand the supply and distribution of water in the Kingston Metropolitan Area, Portmore, and other parts of St. Catherine, as well as sections of Manchester, St. Ann, St. Mary, and Trelawny.
The project, which is estimated to cost $17.5 billion, will be financed through a loan from the Bank of Nova Scotia.
On other matters, the Prime Minister informed that 20 per cent of earnings from the Special Consumption Tax that was imposed on fuel will be dedicated to the Road Maintenance Fund, which will allow the Government to undertake meaningful repairs and maintenance of the country’s roads.
“We will increase that percentage progressively to 50 per cent over the next two years. It is important, however, that in ensuing years, we do not reduce but maintain and increase where possible, the normal allocations in the budget for roads,” he stated.
Finance and Planning Minister Hon. Audley Shaw, in opening the Budget Debate on April 23, announced an increase in the Special Consumption Tax on fuel of $8.75 per litre.

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