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Lawmaker says NHT is neglecting rural Jamaica

Published:Friday | October 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM

MEMBER OF Parliament for South Trelawny Marisa Dalrymple-Phi-libert has castigated the National Housing Trust (NHT) for failing to provide housing solutions for thousands of contributors living in deep rural Jamaica.

At a meeting of the Public Administration and Appropria-tions Committee of Parlia-ment, the outspoken lawmaker accused the housing body of spending the lion's share of its budget on Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine and Westmoreland.

"We have to accept the reality that you are not reaching out to rural Jamaica. Hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans live in rural Jamaica and it is rural Jamaica that is feeding the country. We are looking to those in the agricultural sector to help our balance of payments and really, you are doing nothing for them. You wonder why they should continue to pay the Housing Trust," an apparent peeved Dalrymple-Philibert commented at a recent meeting of the parliamentary committee.

Martin Miller, managing director of the NHT, told the committee that a significant part of the Trust's programme was its build-on-own-land loan arrangement, which represents a significant spend each year.

He said the NHT's mobile programme will be expanded later this year to reach out to farmers in deep rural Jamaica, in an effort to get them on board as contributors so that they can qualify for housing benefits.

Committee member Dr Horace Chang also had concerns about low-income Jamaicans who are finding it difficult to get housing solutions. According to Chang, the NHT is catering mainly to middle-income and lower-middle income workers. He said the Trust was originally conceptualised to address the needs of low-income workers.

"You are doing so many things and you are doing some of them well and you tend to forget the little guy at the bottom who cannot make too much noise," he said.

But Miller argued that an examination of the Trust's contribution base would reveal that the NHT collects 17 per cent of total contribution from persons in the one and three per cent interest category, those earning less than $10,000 per month.

"In terms of the value of the loans we have granted, 37 per cent of the loans are granted to those persons. So what is happening here, those who contribute less are getting more, and we want to continue along that path because our intention is to serve that group," he explained.