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Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has announced a number of new benefits that are to be made available to contributors of the National Housing Trust (NHT) effective April 1. The new benefits include a 100 per cent increase in the loan limit under the scheme, open market and build on own land housing programmes from $1.5 Million to $3 Million per applicant and up to $6 Million for combined mortgages.
Mr. Patterson made the announcement on Wednesday (Feb 1) while addressing the launch of the NHT’s 30th Anniversary celebrations at Emancipation Park in Kingston. The Prime Minister has Ministerial responsibility for the NHT.
Additional benefits announced by the Prime Minister at Wednesday’s launch include an increase in the loan limit for service lots form $600,000 to $1 Million for single applicants and from $800,000 to $1.6 Million for combined mortgages involving two beneficiaries. Home Improvement loans for single applicants will increase from $600,000 to $1 Million and from $1.2 Million to $2 Million for two persons.
He said the recently concluded Cabinet Retreat had taken a decision to make interest payment on mortgages tax deductible and that this would be included in the 2006/07 Budget. In addition, the Prime Minister said the NHT has been mandated by the Cabinet to provide financial support to householders to enable them to install and retrofit their homes with solar heating systems as an alternative source of energy. This provision he stated, would also be accessible to hospitals and educational institutions.
He said the changes to the housing benefits arose from a review of the current policies of the NHT and were expected to increase access to housing and result in greater levels of efficiency in the delivery of customer service. He said the NHT has also reviewed the eligibility criteria that will allow contributors to pay arrears and interests for up to three years instead of seven before they could be eligible for a housing benefit. Contributors who obtained service lots from the NHT will be able to access construction loans immediately instead of after the usual seven years.
Mr. Patterson observed that despite the many successes of the Trust over the past 30 years the country continues to face challenges with regard to the timely provision of shelter. He said the national settlement goal to provide more affordable housing within the next ten to fifteen years would require approximately 30,000 housing solutions per annum, but added that since its establishment the NHT had demonstrated its commitment to Jamaicans by enabling approximately 113,000 to acquire their own home at a combined value of $44 Billion.
The Prime Minister disclosed that a number of new housing projects are to be implemented during the course of this year to include approximately 900 new housing solutions in the communities of Twickenham Park and Eltham Park in Spanish Town and at Braco and Leeds in Trelawny. In addition, 715 new houses are to be constructed under the Sugar Housing Programme at Long Pond, Hampden and Worthy Park.
Mr. Patterson said the measures outlined were intended to ensure that all categories of workers had access to affordable housing.