Housing agency to partner with private sector to build over 15,000 homes

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Oct 2, CMC – The National Housing Trust (NHT) says it will be partnering with more private developers to significantly increase the number of affordable homes as the Jamaica government announced plans to ahead with legislation to protect property values in gated communities.

NHT chairman, Dr. Nigel Clarke, said that at least seven parcels of land totalling 3,000 acres have already been identified for the private developers’ programme that this is intended to provide in excess of the15,000 homes by 2020, as well as other units thereafter.

Clarke said this is consistent with the mandate of Prime Minister Andrew Holness that the agency builds more affordable homes for Jamaicans.

Clarke, speaking at the recent ground-breaking ceremony for the NHT’s J$4.1 billion (One Jamaica dollar=US$0.008 cents) Ruthven Towers apartment complex in St. Andrew, said that advertisements were placed locally and internationally during August, inviting submissions from interested parties of which 10 have to date been received.

He said the NHT will continue to accept submissions until the end of October and, thereafter, pre-qualify the participants by the end of November.

“We are going to shortlist (them) and invite proposals for each parcel of land according to our criteria, so that construction can begin sometime in 2018/19; the vast majority of houses to be developed under this programme would be (in the range of) J$5 million. This will allow us to move beyond the target of 15,000 homes.

“Once we get this programme (going) and…the private sector moving in tandem with the public sector, we expect to break the bottleneck of housing demand and delivery and address the market (needs) that currently exists…particularly at the low-income segment.”

Clarke said he was looking beyond the 15,000 houses noting “if we unleash the energy of private enterprise, we believe that we can do much more as far as affordable housing is concerned.”

“So the NHT (is putting) in place this arrangement in order to engender significant acceleration in the number of houses brought to market and, at the same time, a significant reduction in the time it takes from conceptualization to delivery,” he added.

Clarke said the open invitation is aimed at generating competition among local and international developers “ensuring that we have an efficient market and, at the end of the day, our contributors get the best value for money”.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Holness said his administration is moving ahead with legislation to protect property values in gated communities.

“We are now developing the gated community legislation,” he said, noting that it will be similar to the Act governing strata corporations.

The law empowers the corporations to enforce the payment of maintenance fees. It also addresses disputes between parties and general communal living issues in order to maintain orderly community existence.

The Prime Minister noted that too many persons cause the value of communities to diminish by erecting structures and doing other things that are not in accordance with the purchase agreement.

Addressing the handing over of keys to beneficiaries of the NHT housing development in Spanish Town, over the last weekend,  Holness urged the residents to ensure that the houses remain valuable “by the way they organise the community.

“Do everything in your power to protect the value of this property in which you have invested,” he said, urging them to form a citizen’s association, and that “this government is going to give such association the legitimate authority to act.”

The J$906 million Berkshire Court development comprises 44-two bedroom town houses.