Jamaica working to expand options for homeownership

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(From Left to Right) General Manager, Jamaica Mortgage Bank, Courtney Wynter; Minister of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change, Pearnel Charles Jr; Senior Director in the Housing Policy Research and Monitoring Branch of the Housing Ministry, Paula Parkes; and the Ministry’s Chief Technical Director, Doreen Prendergast.[Photo: Michael Sloley]

By Alecia Smith

KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – Minister of housing, urban renewal, environment and climate change, Pearnel Charles Jr, says that the government is constantly working to expand the options available to persons, who wish to own a home.

“We continue, every day, to interrogate the system and to make sure that we can still come up with more creative offerings,” he said, noting that among the options being looked at is rent-to-buy arrangements. Minister Charles Jr. was addressing a virtual Town Hall on the draft National Housing Policy and Implementation Plan dubbed: ‘Let’s Talk Housing’ on Wednesday, March 31.

He said that the ministry is examining the recommendations that have been made through the consultations done on the Plan to develop and introduce new measures to increase access to affordable housing solutions. He noted that already, several arrangements are available through the ministry’s various agencies, to make homeownership easier.

He cited, among them, the National Housing Trust’s (NHT) employer-assisted housing programme where employers can partner with the agency to provide housing for their staff, noting that the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) is also partnering with stakeholders on arrangements to benefit Jamaicans.

“You have the inter-generational mortgage, which is a partnership with family members to provide greater access to a youngster, who otherwise would not be eligible to access the financing; you have clustered housing where more than one contributor can come together, go to the NHT and work out a process where they can have benefit as a joint group; you have the housing micro-finance loan programme where NHT works with credit unions to provide access and benefits too (persons such as) civil servants,” he continued. “The Town Hall is an important consultation in garnering the concerns, views and recommendations of citizens on the draft National Housing Policy, which has been tabled in parliament as a Green Paper.”

“This discussion forms part of the conversation that we are having with Jamaica about this housing policy to make sure that (it) is a product of all of our contributions. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that we put forward a comprehensive policy based on empirical data that can address the challenges that we have and advance our vision of a Jamaica where you have safe, legal, and affordable housing for all,” he said.

A specific goal of the policy is to increase access to housing and its associated resources to all segments of the population, in particular the poor, while at the same time reducing direct governmental role in housing development.

It also seeks to promote homeownership and other tenure arrangements including renting to facilitate access to decent, safe and affordable housing solutions for all Jamaicans; and to maintain a fair and stable operating environment for the private property market by ensuring adequate land supply and the provision of efficient supporting infrastructure.

Following consultations and further refinement of the policy, it is expected that it will be tabled in parliament by the second quarter of this financial year.

The Town Hall was staged by the Housing Policy Research and Monitoring Branch of the Ministry. Officials from the ministry, including permanent secretary, Dr Alwin Hales, as well as representatives from the Jamaica Mortgage Bank, the NHT, and HAJ participated in the event.

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