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No increase in NHT loan ceiling likely

BY INGRID BROWN Associate Editor — Special Assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 22, 2013    

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JAMAICANS are not likely to see an increase in the $4.5-million loan ceiling which the National Housing Trust (NHT) offers to its contributors anytime soon, as such a move will push housing solutions out of reach of lower income beneficiaries, according to officials of the Trust.

The NHT currently offers beneficiaries mortgages of up to $4.5 million with interest rates ranging from zero to seven per cent.

Managing director of the NHT Cecile Watson and chairman of the board Easton Douglas said increasing the loan cap could mean a reduction in the number of houses the Trust will be able to build.

"Our first priority is to those who have no other option for home ownership than the Trust. Those persons who earn [at the] higher income level have options in terms of other financial institutions, so we are really seeking to maximise our impact on those who don't have the options, such as the working poor and most vulnerable in society," Watson said.

The NHT boss, who was addressing the weekly Jamaica House press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston yesterday, said the model forward for the entity will be to target lower cost housing.

She noted that the NHT is rescoping to increase the number of houses provided under its scheme programme.

"We don't want to be building houses people cannot afford and we have to end up holding them for long periods," Watson said.

Of the 500,000 contributors to the NHT, an estimated 350,000 are low income earners, earning up to $15,000 to $20,000 per week.

Meanwhile, Douglas explained that an increase in the loan ceiling will mean an increase in mortgage payment.

"We would prefer to challenge developers and contractors and the NHT to construct at a less expensive rate than to be looking at increasing the mortgages at this time because we have to think of affordability," Douglas said, adding that the population the NHT wants to concentrate on just cannot afford it.

He noted also that there are no plans to increase the amount that contributors are required to pay into the NHT's coffers.

"We have no plans to increase the contribution. We are now going through a process of analysis and we have arrived at no decision to affect the present operations of the NHT," Douglas said.

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