Housing agency launches mobile service in Manchester
NHT mobile unit to serve rural parishes
BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
MILE GULLY, Manchester — For Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller it was a case of "promise made, promise fulfilled".
A year ago in the Budget debate in Parliament she had promised the National Housing Trust's (NHT's) use of mobile units to extend its reach into deep rural Jamaica .
Last week, the prime minister proudly participated in the launch of the mobile service dubbed 'NHT on Wheels' at Mile Gully in north-west Manchester .
The project centres on a bus equipped with computers and office equipment designed to meet the needs of NHT contributors — including registration and electronic payments — in their communities.
The retrofitted bus can simultaneously accommodate two work stations, seating two customer service representatives and four customers.
"I believe in planned development, and so I want to commend the NHT for taking what I said last year seriously," said Simpson Miller, who has ministerial responsibility for the NHT.
Clarendon, Manchester, Trelawny, and St Elizabeth will be initially targeted by the mobile programme since they are said to be the parishes with the lowest proportion of NHT contributors. Simpson Miller stressed the imperative of getting Jamaicans at the lower end of the economic scale, including farmers and farm workers, small entrepreneurs and artisans, into the NHT mainstream so that they, too, will have easier access to housing.
Chairman of the NHT Easton Douglas, who is a former minister of housing, said the move to add mobility to the NHT's service was an important aspect of planned community development which, in the long run, will help to stem the rural-urban drift.
Immediately after the launch ceremony at Mile Gully community centre, NHT teller Angella Page was kept busy as several guests lined up at the door of the bus to do business, including debit and credit card mortgage payments.
"This is very convenient," said Marva Cottrell-Williams, who normally would have had to make the long trip to Mandeville to pay her mortgage.
Dr Lanie-Marie Oakley-Williams, senior general manager of customer relations at NHT, said the new mobile service would prove a valuable gateway to having more NHT customers doing their business online.
"Once we register you with the bus you can go online and continue to do business with NHT and we hope that with the schools and post offices having computers (customers) will have access in the communities," said Oakley-Williams.
Established in 1976, the NHT provides loans for contributors to build, buy, or repair their homes.
Jamaicans aged 18 to 65, earning minimum wages or above, are expected to contribute to the Trust. The NHT says 420,000 Jamaicans currently contribute.