Ruthven Towers is not for everyoneThursday, November 18, 2021
BY NORMAN W M THOMPSON
A lot of hullabaloo is being made over the pricey Ruthven Towers apartments advertised by the National Housing Trust (NHT) recently.
I too raised my eyebrows over the price – $27.7 to $28.9 million for a one-bedroom apartment and $35 to $37.7 million for a two-bedroom apartment. Initially, they were to be sold for between $16 and $22 million. However, escalation in the price of building material has determined otherwise.
I listened faithfully to the NHT slot on RJR's Hotline, even though I have already benefited from an NHT loan. On Friday, November 12, the NHT team rebutted much of the misinformation that had been swirlling around. The two lowest-income bands account for 73 per cent of NHT mortgages, while Ruthven Towers represents less than one per cent of the housing solutions that the trust has under construction.
Why didn't the Opposition spokesman on finance garner the facts? I am disappointed in Julian Robinson. He has always seemed to be a level-headed individual, but to demand that the NHT abandon the idea of further construction in the development is rather ill-conceived.
All this is emotion and politics. I know that Robinson has a duty to his constituents, but they can be better served.
The two contending parties do not hesitate to raid the coffers of the NHT when they need budgetary support, and none expressed concern that this was not the purpose of the NHT at the time of “raiding”. How convenient! We should rejoice that an agency of the State is sagacious in handling its finances.
Why focus on less than one per cent of the housing solutions offerred by the trust? The focus should be placed on the housing solutions being offered to the lower-income groups to ensure that they are affordable.
It was the same thing with the 1.4 per cent increase in Jamaica Public Service (JPS) rates. Okay, I paid about $70 more, but the following month I paid more than $500 less. If some people want access to a swimming pool and an apartment close to the business district, 'low' them. All I know is that I wouldn't be interested in a 697-sq ft apartment with no room for expansion.
As I write this, there is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house in north-east Manchester that's going for $16.5 million by private treaty, compliments of the NHT. This over 2,000-sq ft house sits on almost 11,000 sq ft of land. And, bear in mind that Manchester is not a parish known for affordable housing.
What I don't want is for the prospective buyer to be sidetracked by this Ruthven Towers saga. I don't want him/her to sink into despair by thinking, “I could never afford that. The NHT is not looking after my interests.”
If you are 35, 45, even 50, if you are single or married, if you have been saving to purchase a home, I am speaking to you, especially if you are seeking a housing solution in Kingston, St Andrew, or St Catherine.
My first bit of advice is: 'Don't sit and wait on the NHT' (see Jamaica Observer of January 5, 2021). In that article I suggested buying property on the open market or by private treaty. And, there are other options.
Here is one: Move! You heard me right. Get out of your comfort zone. Buy property elsewhere – I know that everyone will not be able to do this. But, think St Thomas (population 93,939), Portland (population 82,183) or St Mary (population 114,227). What's wrong with Yallahs, Morant Bay, Buff Bay, Hope Bay, St Margaret's Bay, Port Maria, Oracabessa, and Islington?
I don't live in the parish of my birth. I don't live in the parish where I grew up, and I don't even live in the parish where I work.
Perhaps the NHT could make it easier for people who live or work outside the parish, but, remember, you don't have to wait on them. There is a vast difference between a 10- to 15-minute commute and a one-and-a-half- to two-hour commute. Do you really want to deal with Mandela and Kingston traffic for the next 20 to 30 years?
People in Europe and North America have been moving from metropolitan areas to more rural settings for years.
It is not important how much you earn, but how far your dollar goes. What is important is the size of your discretionary income.
Let's begin to think outside the box when it comes to identifying affordable housing. Remember, Kingston is not Jamaica.