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PM says Gov’t unable to resolve housing crisis on its own

New homeowners receive keys to Hanover scheme

Published:Tuesday | August 16, 2022 | 12:06 AMBryan Miller/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) hands over a set of keys to Shawn Anderson for his newly acquired home in the Industry Cove Manor housing development, located in western Hanover, on Saturday, August 13.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) hands over a set of keys to Shawn Anderson for his newly acquired home in the Industry Cove Manor housing development, located in western Hanover, on Saturday, August 13.

WESTERN BUREAU:

PRIME MINISTER Andrew Holness says the Government is unable to resolve the housing crisis confronting the country on its own.

Acknowledging the gravity of the shortage of adequate housing solutions within the island, Holness said the private sector has a very important responsibility in helping the Government to address the housing problem.

Pointing out that the need for housing across the country far exceeds the 70,000 units that the Government plans to build, Holness pleaded for private-sector input in the building of affordable houses.

“To undertake such a massive house-building programme, the Government can’t do it alone. The Government needs the private sector to come on board,” he emphasised.

The prime minister said that there is capacity at a certain level and a certain price point within the market, but the challenge is to get the private sector to participate at the affordable and low-income levels in the market, where the demand is higher.

“We have what we describe in Jamaica then to be a supply-side issue; the demand is there, the demand is good, and we have the facilities for mortgages. What we don’t have now is on the construction side of it, enough contractors,” he stated.

He made the comments while delivering the keynote address to hand over the keys to homes in the Industry Manor housing scheme in western Hanover, a 63-housing unit development done by the National Housing Trust (NHT).

Highlighting the gap between demand and supply with respect to housing units, Holness explained that with the 63 units put up for offer by the NHT in the Industry Manor development, it received 591 applications. He added that only 46 of the 63 units are available, as the NHT has to reserve some of the units for special groups within the society.

“So, this tells the story of housing demand in Jamaica, 591 applicants, and most of them would be pre-qualified,” he stated.

Holness also mentioned that 20,000 applications were received for 40 units in the Catherine Estates development in St Catherine.

He argued that such a situation would breed some amount of frustration, which multiplies itself throughout the Jamaican society.

“I want you to understand that we (the Government) are not insensitive to that position, and we can well appreciate why people feel so frustrated sometimes about Jamaica, especially young people,” the prime minister stated.

That frustration, he said, gives the impression of a sense of unfairness taking place within the society, and can lead to disengagement over several generations.

Noting that such frustration and disengagement is not restricted to any particular class in the society, Holness said that “we have to be very careful not to allow that feeling to overtake the majority of Jamaicans, as access to housing solutions is such an important part of keeping our society engaged”.

Chairman of the NHT, Lennox Channer, speaking at the same event, acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic affected the timeline for the delivery of the units.

He added that through the accelerated housing programme, the NHT is leveraging its production efficiencies in the market, through partnerships, to bring as many housing solutions as possible to the market in the shortest possible time.

bryan.miller@gleanerjm.com