Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Updated: HAJ bleeding - State agency loses $900 million in one year

Published:Saturday | March 18, 2017 | 3:00 AMJovan Johnson
The Housing Agency of Jamaica headquarters in Cross Roads.
Boscobel Development in St Mary, one of the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) projects.
Horace Chang
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The Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) continues to under-deliver on projects, even as its latest annual report showed that it racked up almost $900 million in losses in one financial year.

"The performance for the period ending March 31, 2016 shows a loss of approximately $886 million, including provisioning for works to be completed on projects starting as far back as 2011. It was expected that sales closures, especially for the Jamaica Economical Housing Project, would have occurred during the period this did not materialise," read a section of the 2015-2016 annual report tabled recently in the House of Representatives.

According to the report, total operating expenses increased over the time frame to $1.3 billion, compared to $666 million in the previous year.

 

BOARD TO STEM LOSSES

 

The report noted that the new board appointed in April 2016 after the change of Government will move to stem the financial bleeding.

"Under the direction of the new board, the immediate focus of the entity is to realign the agency and its operations to mitigate further losses. In addition, the agency will refocus its resources on fulfilling its mandate of developing housing solutions for low and middle-income earners in the market," the document stated.

"The agency must and will aggressively charge a path towards financial stability delivered by committed and empowered staff."

For the current 2016-2017 year that ends on March 31, the HAJ said among its projections was the repayment of $782 million to the National Housing Trust in relation to construction and Operation PRIDE loans.

The HAJ is a land and housing development company that provides housing solutions for low and middle-income earners, with one of its specific mandates being to upgrade squatter settlements.

In the past two years, the agency has been rocked by a series of controversies. Just last July, five senior managers were dismissed amid accusations of gross mismanagement at the government entity.

Dr Horace Chang, minister with responsibility for housing, has said the Government will be restructuring the HAJ to again make it financially viable.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com

(EDITOR'S NOTE: After Dr Horace Chang first revealed the HAJ's losses late last year, the agency indicated in December that it was projected to realise a profit for its financial year ending March 31, 2017, the first time in three years, fuelled largely by sales of houses at its latest development, the Vistas in Runaway Bay, St Ann.)