Wed | Dec 12, 2018

NHT seeks better loan application quality, fields mobile loan unit

Published:Sunday | July 1, 2018 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder
One of the early NHT mobile units from an initiative launched in 2014 for rural communities. The unit used for loan applications is a retrofitted Coaster bus.

Mortgage provider National Housing Trust (NHT) has added a mobile component to its outreach, which sees the state agency travelling to communities to assist residents with loan applications for the housing and benefits it provides.

The 'mobile unit' has already been to Papine, St Andrew, according to NHT Corporate and Public Affairs Manager Dwayne Berbick, who says the intent is to ensure the proper completion of application forms and supporting documentation by contributors for loans and other services.

In coming months, NHT will be offering 37 units for sale in Mary Field, 95 in Hellshire phase two, 114 in Hellshire phase three, plus 595 homes in Colbeck Castle. The mortgage lender is also targeting Portmore for home improvement loans.

"Our latest research indicates that for the parish of St Catherine, approximately 10,000 persons are interested in making improvements to their home. This would be a combination of NHT and non-NHT mortgagors or homeowners," said Berbick.

He said those individuals would qualify for either the NHT's '15 Plus' loan, which is available to persons who last received a loan from the NHT more than 15 years ago; the home improvement loan, available to persons who are homeowners but have not borrowed from the NHT.

The mobile loan unit, he said, potentially adds three new contacts points to do business with the NHT.

"We have identified one for Papine and we are looking at one in Portmore and another in Linstead," the communications officer said. The latter two communities are located in the parish of St Catherine.

"While we have 13 branch offices and service centres, we really think that we need to create more access points," said Berbick. "If they [contributors] know every Saturday we are in Portmore, they will set aside some time to come and do business with us. We are creating access points for greater convenience and also for the NHT brand to create greater visibility in some for these areas."

The deployments to Linstead and Portmore await parish council approval. The mobile unit will operate in each community one day each week.

"Generally, what we look at is to ensure that the unit can function as an NHT office," said Berbick. That means almost all the services at brick-and-mortar branches will be available through the mobile unit, including contribution refunds, eligibility and affordability letters, loan processing, and regularisation of compliance status.

"Pretty much all of our services are offered there, with the exception of collecting funds," the communications officer added.

The mobile unit, which is a retrofitted coaster bus, has three office doors with three sliding doors for the privacy of clients. The initiative, the NHT officer said, was not a new cost, as the unit was long used for marketing. Loan preparation, he said, was a value-added function.

"We hope that through the mobile unit the quality of applications will improve. Many times people apply without fully satisfying all the requirements," said Berbick.

"We do promotions for our schemes one year in advance, because the NHT criteria is one year of contributions. When we go in the field from now, those persons who have never contributed will be in a better position to apply."

NHT is planning the roll-out of nearly 1,000 housing units in St Catherine and Clarendon by December 2019.

The state housing previously launched a mobile initiative in 2014, with a similar aim of improving access to certain services, but was targeted at rural communities.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com