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NHT targets young professionals with new Ruthven Towers

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, September 23, 2017



YOUNG professionals now living with friends and family or renting an apartment will soon have the opportunity to become homeowners as the National Housing Trust yesterday broke ground for its Ruthven Towers apartments in St Andrew.

Phase one of the project, which is scheduled to begin in November, will comprise 64 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, while Phase two will see the development of 106 one bedrooms, 56 two bedrooms, and 12 three-bedroom units. The housing solution is expected to cost $4.1 billion.

The Ruthven Road complex, which is scheduled to be completed in July 2019, is expected to attract a starting price of $18 million for an apartment; however, this amount is expected to be revised closer to the end of the construction period.

However, at least one politician has so far raised a concern about the cost of the units.

“I was speaking earlier, Prime Minister, to Custos (of Kingston Steadman Fuller) about the cost of these units; I was told that it would end up in the $18-million range, and I was saying to the custos that we have to find a way to get the units somewhere in the $10-$15-million range so that our young professionals can really access it,” Member of Parliament for St Andrew South Eastern Julian Robinson said at yesterday's ground-breaking ceremony for the apartments.

“Nigel (Clarke) assured me that the NHT is providing 100 per cent financing here, which should make it accessible to those young professionals who we want to target, and I am very pleased about that,” Robinson added.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, during his address yesterday, argued that it's his obligation to ensure that more houses are built now than before.

“By now you will know that it is my point of duty to be at all NHT ground breaking. It is not just a point of duty but to prove a point that we are going to build houses in Jamaica, and build more houses than ever been built before,” the prime minister said, adding that the Government intends to build more houses in 2017 compared to the dwellings that were built over the years leading up to 2005.

Noting that he was a bit disappointed that the complex would only be six floors instead of 12 to fit his skyline vision for Kingston, Holness said the pledge to do more than 5,000 housing solutions for 2017 should be increased to 7,000 solutions.

“Judge (Ambassador Dr Nigel Clarke) and Martin (NHT Managing Director Martin Miller), I want to hear that you do 7,000 in this fiscal year and it is not impossible,” Holness charged. “I am going to write to both of you, but on top of that, what they didn't tell you is that programmes this year; are well on track to do over 8,000 mortgages, which will be about $28 billion of loans for housing. That is the largest that the NHT has ever done in a very long time, and the largest ever,” Holness said.

Holness said, too, that the NHT is responding to the Government's mandate to build more houses and to ensure that individuals earning just above minimum wage can qualify to own houses.

The concept to transform the 23,181.75 square metres (5.71 acres) at 1-3 Ruthven Road, which was the home of three police agencies, into Ruthven Towers was conceptualised in 2003, but was decided on in 2009.

“All of these developments that are going on they were not conceived under this Administration. They were conceived across administrations,” the prime minister said, adding that the execution is right on time.

“I don't want the title of the great conceptualiser. My title must be the great implementer, and that is the difference with this Administration.

“We have made a commitment to implement. It doesn't matter whose idea it is. The brain is not all in one head, and therefore ideas can't be exclusive to just one set of people,“ he said. “If it is a PNP (People's National Party) idea or a JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) idea... once it is a good idea the Jamaica Labour Party Government that I lead will implement it,” Holness said.

In the meantime, the prime minister pointed out that: “It is not the intention of this Government to use up the NHT money to do other things, than build houses. It is just circumstances that made the case why we had to do what the previous Government did. But to compensate for that we must ensure that we build more houses...”

In June, The National Housing Trust (Amendment) (Special Provisions) Bill was piloted by Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw for the Government to withdraw $11.4 billion annually from the NHT to support the budget for the next four years.

However, while in Opposition in 2013, the Jamaica Labour Party criticised the then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Dr Peter Phillips, the then finance minister, who used a national broadcast to announce the Government's decision to tap into the NHT's coffers for budgetary support.

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