THE National Housing Trust (NHT) has committed to start construction on 12,000 houses over 18 months in six parishes at a total cost of $29 billion.
"We think that this is perhaps not the most fantastic initiative undertaken by the Trust but it certainly is an ambitious programme," NHT chairman Howard Mitchell said Tuesday during a tour of Union Estate, a new scheme under construction at Twickenham Park in St Catherine.
"The challenge is to keep the cost of those houses down, Mitchell said, adding that infrastructure costs have pushed up the price of houses considerably in Jamaica.
The new NHT houses will include units under the Sugar Workers Housing Programme (SWHP), as well as units sold on the open market.
Along with the 746 houses now under construction at Union Estate, the NHT plans to offer houses and land at Longville in Clarendon where 600 houses and 234 serviced lots will be sold.
At Perth in Manchester, 1,343 housing units and 257 serviced lots are planned for completion by September 2011.
In St James, 148 serviced lots will be offered at Providence located near the upscale Ironshore community and at Bushy Park, Clarendon 67 studios, one and two-bedroom houses will be constructed.
Under SWHP, the NHT will provide 402 serviced lots at Bernard Lodge in St Catherine, while at Frome in Westmoreland,115 houses, consisting of 76 foundation-only starter units, are to be offered.
At Stokes Hall in St Thomas sugar workers should benefit from 149 serviced lots and at Hampden in Trelawny 288 lots will be sold under the SWHP.
In the meantime, Mitchell said that Union Estate is the first scheme where the recently announced NHT initiatives - the extended mortgage term, the combined loan and the short-term lease facilities - would take effect.
Last week the NHT introduced the new initiatives to ease the homeownership process.
Mitchell cautioned, however, that although the short-term lease seemed to be the initiative sparking greatest interest among contributors, there was a cap on the number of units within any scheme that would be sold by that method.
Union Estate is a joint venture project between the NHT, Jamaica Civil Service Association and the Joint Confederation of Trade Unions where 80 per cent of the units are reserved for public servants and 20 per cent sold on the open market.
Addressing security concerns at the Twickenham Park site in light of continued violent upheavals in the community, Mitchell said that construction sites and violence often go together in Jamaica.
"There is a good reason; it is about work and money," Mitchell commented. He added that once the work is over he expected the level of tension to de-escalate.
"What we have is confidence that developments of this sort eventually form wider links with the community that reduces tension," Mitchell said. "We are confident that those synergies will develop as they have developed elsewhere where we had similar experience," the NHT chairman added.