Letters to the Editor

Ruthven Towers no waste

Thursday, September 28, 2017

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Dear Editor,

We write in response to a column published in the Tuesday, September 26, 2017 edition of the Daily Observer, titled 'Stop the waste, review Ruthven Towers proposal' by communications director for the PNP Patriots Orrett Montague, expressing some concern about the recently announced plans by the National Housing Trust (NHT) to construct 238 apartments on Ruthven Road, to be named Ruthven Towers.

The NHT will construct 64 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments under Phase 1, and 106 one-bedroom, 56 two-bedroom and 12 three-bedroom units under Phase 2. The development will include modern amenities such as jogging trail, car park, elevators, tennis court, swimming pool, centralised garbage disposal, among other things. The development is expected to cost $5.2 billion.

The NHT's plan to develop apartments at Ruthven Road dates back to 2010 when a preliminary concept budget was submitted with plans to develop the site at a cost of $1.9 billion. This estimate would have been made prior to the design phase and would not have taken into account specific design details of the development. The 'change' in the cost of the development, which was raised in the article, merely represents the difference between the preliminary concept in 2010 and the actual development to be constructed in 2017 to include additional amenities. The number of units to be constructed has also increased from 198 to 238 units. It should be obvious this change primarily reflects differences in the cost structure of the economy over that time.

The process to select the contractor for the development started in October 2016 and ended in September 2017 and was carried out with strict compliance to the Government of Jamaica procurement guidelines. The NHT invited bids from contractors for the development, which were evaluated, and a recommendation for award submitted for the endorsement of National Contracts Commission and ultimately for the approval of Cabinet.

This year the NHT has plans for approximately 5,500 housing starts, the largest number of NHT housing starts in any year over the last 15 years, by an appreciable margin. Ruthven Towers represents the 13th NHT ground-breaking this year and of the 5,500 housing starts, 3,500 or 70 per cent are geared towards our lower-income contributors.

Furthermore, the NHT is projected to write 8,500 mortgages this year, the largest annual number of mortgages in its 41-year history. The value of these mortgages will approximate $28 billion, again the largest in the NHT's history.

The NHT has innovated a number of policies to make housing more affordable for all of its contributors. With reference to NHT contributors applying for solutions at Ruthven Towers, they will be able to access 100 per cent financing based on the new NHT Scheme Policy, subject to affordability. Outside of this policy, the trust has increased loan limits for first-time borrowers from $4.5 million to $5.5 million. This means two individuals can co-apply to access up to $11 million to buy or build a home.

Furthermore, the NHT this year revised its Home Grants Programme, increasing the subsidy from $1.5 to $2.5 million. This grant is available to individuals contributing for seven years or more and who earn below $12,000 weekly to supplement their NHT loan. In addition, contributors in this income bracket access NHT loans at zero per cent.

While the NHT is addressing its mandate in terms of putting in place better financing arrangements, the trust is also responding to the need to increase the housing stock in Jamaica with plans to have 15,000 starts by the year 2020 and based on the year-to-date outturn, the NHT is well on its way to achieving this target which will not only provide shelter, but provide jobs and boost the economic activity in parishes all across Jamaica.

Dwayne Berbick

Corporate and public affairs manager

National Housing Trust

Kingston 5

dwayneberbick@nht.gov.jm

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