News

NHT wooing J'cans living overseas

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Observer staff reporter scotts@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, December 18, 2013    

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THE National Housing Trust (NHT) is on a drive to get Jamaicans living overseas to contribute to the fund and to build houses for them.

"Jamaicans, whether they do it or not, they always wish to come back home," NHT Chairman Easton Douglas told the Jamaica Observer recently. "And those who do not come back home wish to know that at Easter, Independence and Christmas, they have somewhere they can stay."

Already, the State agency has visited seven cities in England and has spoken to Jamaicans who have expressed an interest in the services being offered by the trust. The NHT also followed up with some potential contributors at the Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference in June.

Douglas said that during the NHT retreat in February next year, the agency set a date to visit the US and Canada to generate interest in the plans among Jamaicans there.

Douglas admitted that the contribution mechanism hasn't been finalised, however, the feedback the trust has been getting has been "excellent" so far.

There's a vast number of Jamaicans in the diaspora who have lost faith and trust in the private contractors, said Douglas.

"Do you know the amount of foundations [and] unfinished houses?" Douglas asked, pointing out that Jamaicans who have sent money home to build houses have had their hearts broken.

"They didn't know that we can build their homes, that we will build houses in clusters for single-family houses, that we will go through the process of identifying land, the contractor and everything, or we'll project manage it for them," Douglas said.

In addition to that programme, the NHT is also on a quest locally to involve the approximately 700,000 workers who aren't contributing to the scheme.

"We are going to get them in because the NHT has to be sustainable," said Douglas. "It contributes to health, to welfare, to housing and to almost every private sector entity, from the smallest to the largest."

He suggested that the non-contributors could be attracted through the NHT's First Step Homes programme which provides shelter for as low as $1.2 million, or the Mortgage Partnership programme, under which contributions can be given to someone to own a home.

"If you have money that you are not going to use, say a member of the diaspora has contributed to the NHT, but really doesn't need it, you can donate to somebody to [acquire] their own homes," Douglas said.

The NHT chairman said the agency has made headway as it relates to the development of affordable homes with the construction of starter homes that require no deposit, but rather a monthly payment of $7,200.

"We have made a breakthrough, we think. It's 320 square feet, and it is built on enough land for which we provide a plan to show how you can expand," Douglas said of the starter home.

NHT contributors who qualify for a loan of no more than $2.5 million can benefit. Even so, the demand for the starter homes is massive.

"We advertised for 200 houses in Longville [Park] and we had 11,000 applications," he said.

First Step Homes have already been built in Trelawny and Westmoreland and model units are being constructed in Clarendon and St Catherine, the NHT says on its website.

Under the programme, 600 First Step Homes will be provided per year over a five-year period to low-income earners.

Though not completely fitted with a kitchen sink, cabinets, face basin, ceiling and floor finishes, one of the houses comes with electrical wiring, concrete walls, PVC louvre windows, metal-clad front and rear doors, timer frame roof with alu steel sheeting, as well as plumbing provided for water supply and drain pipe for kitchen, according to the NHT.

If the house is being built on the contributor's own land a subsidy is given to help with expansion.

Since inception and up to March 31, 2013, the NHT has had a direct hand in 93,718 housing solutions. It has been a prolific developer with nearly 42,000 housing units.

"We have allocated $19 billion to the private sector to the building of houses and the NHT itself has spent $11 billion for the building of houses, we are in partnership with building societies and every bank in Jamaica with respect to mortgages," Douglas said.

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