PHASE III of Longville Park, the National Housing Trust's (NHT's) most recent housing development, was oversubscribed by more than 1,000 per cent, making it the Trust's most popular scheme in recent years, as far as numbers go.
Experts say this brings into sharp focus the path private investors must take to fill the need for housing among professionals across the country.
The Trust reported receiving 10,347 applications for the 841 advertised solutions which included studios, one and two-bedroom houses and serviced lots. That's 9,506 more than they could accommodate. In addition to the 841 spaces advertised, 77 others were reserved for special groups such as young professionals, public sector workers, persons with disabilities, and contributors earning $10,000 or less per week.
The solutions were priced at between $6.7 million and $7.3 million for two-bedroom units, from $4.9 million to $5.6 million for one bedroom houses, from 3.2 million to $4.2 million for studios, and from $1.5 million to $3 million for serviced lots. The difference in price in the same category, the Trust explained, was based on differences in size and elevation.
The NHT did not immediately respond to follow-up questions asking what age and income groups the applicants represented, nor the reason for the sharp increase in demand, but a highly placed source in the organisation said it was the "largest intake ever in the history of the Trust".
In the past 10 years the National Housing Trust has built 15 housing schemes across the country, but based on the number of applications, Longville Park Phase III attracted the most interest. The rush on Longville, according to real estate practitioners, is an indication of the demand for affordable homes of fair quality, but it comes as no surprise to CEO of LaMaison Property Services Ltd, Edwin Wint.
"I've long said that for anything up to $8 million the effective demand is going to be high, because when two people can qualify for an NHT loan with a fairly reasonable mortgage payment, it's going to (go fast)," he told the Jamaica Observer.
Chairman of DC Tavares & Finson, William Tavares Finson isn't shocked by the interest generated by Longville either.
"It's not unprecedented or unusual," he said making reference to previous decades when he said NHT houses were gobbled up in similar fashion. "When NHT comes out with schemes that are well priced and that are in a good location, you will find the demand increase."
"It's not unusual, but it's not generally across the board... There is still a problem with homes above the low-to-middle income band," said Tavares Finson. That problem, he added, is going to be compounded by the devaluing Jamaican dollar, which will drive construction costs up and eventually be passed on to the home-buyer.
"You will find that the cost of construction and the cost of housing is going up... but it takes about 18 months for the increases to play over to the market side."
As far as lower income homes go, however, Wint said there is always a demand.
"The ambition for homownership has always been there. It's only heightened now because the supply is matching the demand with the ability to purchase because of the NHT loan ceiling," he added.
The NHT lends up to $4.5 million to contributors seeking to buy either houses it develops, or those on the open market. Potential homeowners have the option of co-applying, which doubles the amount they would be able to borrow from the Trust.
"Up to the first $7 million, (co-applicants) don't even need the private sector mortgage and they can still enjoy fairly reasonable monthly payments.
Wint added that developers ought to give more attention to this area of the market as it has "not been fully satisfied". "It's smart to focus on a price point of up to $8 million," he said.
In addition to the relative affordability, Longville Park's appeal, said Wint, has to do with its location close to Highway 2000.
"There is more demand for those in proximity to the Corporate Area, and those along the corridor of the highway, from Kingston, Old Harbour, and Clarendon are going to be in demand.
The Trust says it has plans for further development in Clarendon, with 350 solutions in Monymusk Phase II due in September 2014, 55 in Sheckles to be delivered by July 2014, and 650 in Sevens, expected in February 2015.
Late last year it published invitations to tender for housing and infrastructure works for Phase 2A of Longville Park.
It will comprise 85 solutions -- 46 two-bedroom units, nine one-bedroom units, and 30 serviced lots.
"The solutions in Phase 2A are expected to be advertised by April 2014.
Additionally, Phase IV, scheduled to begin construction in March 2016, will add approximately 2,000 solutions," the Trust said in an emailed response to the Sunday Observer.