Gov't says housing remains a priority

Saturday, November 09, 2019

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MINISTER without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Senator Pearnel Charles Jr says the Government continues to prioritise the provision of housing in order to meet the growing demand.

He said research has shown that Jamaica will require approximately 15,000 new units annually.

“In the last three years, we have had the most housing starts built since our independence, which is a good thing. It means there is a priority for housing. The average number of housing units being built annually is 11,152… That's in the formal and informal sectors… but we still have a deficit,” he noted.

Senator Charles Jr was speaking during a lecture on the housing sector at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, on Wednesday.

The minister pointed out that population fluctuation has a direct impact on the housing need.
He said information from the National Housing Trust (NHT) indicates that in 2017, the housing demand market was approximately 24,500.

“This means if you are hoping to be a developer… you cannot lose. The demand exceeds what we are able to provide,” he said.

Turning to the proposed amendments to the Rent Restriction Act, Senator Charles Jr said the changes are expected to address current challenges in the rental estate industry and make it more equitable for landlords and tenants.

“Right now, it is a representation of inequity. So you are going to find that a lot of persons who potentially would have wanted to purchase another home in order to rent it… said no… because they didn't want to have to deal with the challenges that flowed from the Rent Restriction Act,” he noted.

“But when we change and amend the Act, what they are going to be doing is opening a whole new revenue stream for people, who might have a little extra income, who might be able to access that mortgage now… [and] buy a home and rent it,” he pointed out.

Among the proposed amendments is a change of name to the Rent Act and to bring the matter of security deposits under the ambit of the legislation in order to standardise the number of months for which deposits are to be charged, including guidelines for use and refund to the tenant.

The amendments will also outline the minimum standard for rental premises, including that the building must be structurally sound, walls and flooring intact and the roofs free of leaks.

The Rent Restriction Act was enacted in 1944 and was last amended in 1983. It was developed at a time when tenants were being seriously disenfranchised and was focused towards their protection.


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