Accumulated losses nearing $3b but HAJ on the mend
Despite facing a projected accumulated loss of $3 billion, the leadership of the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) is expressing confidence that it is taking the right steps to turn things around, with a projected profit this fiscal year proof that it is heading in the right direction.
"When we assumed office in 2016, for the 2015-2016 period, we incurred a loss of $900 million. So far, in this current financial year, which ends on the 31st of March, we are projecting to return a profit of $61 million," chairman of the board of directors of HAJ, Norman Brown, told a media briefing yesterday.
"We consider that a tremendous turnaround by virtue of the size of the loss against what we are reporting today," Brown said.
REDUCED OPERATIONAL EXPENSES
He said the HAJ has also significantly reduced its operating expense, which was $1.3 billion for the period 2014-2016.
"In our present financial year, we have reduced our budgeted operational expenses by $91 million while carrying on the operations of the agency in an efficient and professional manner," added Brown.
The HAJ now projects that its operational expenses for this year should be in the region of $460 million.
According to the chairman, his board was appointed at a time when the HAJ had a debt to the National Housing Trust of just over $3 billion but was reduced by some $410 million this fiscal year.
"We have turned the agency around, we have reduced our debt, and we have returned the agency to profitability," declared Brown, as he noted that the HAJ recorded losses for each of the past three years.
"The HAJ is a self-funded agency. We have to generate our own revenue and, since we have assumed office, we have not been a charge on the public purse. We have had to generate our own income to meet our operating expenses."
He added, "This board that I lead, on assuming office, ... would have made it our responsibility to return stability and viability to the agency so that we are able to fulfil our mandate to the ... people of Jamaica."
... Agency pushing to get titles into hands of J'cans
Mandated to upgrade squatter settlements and provide housing solutions for low- and middle-income families, the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) is on a mission to provide thousands of persons with titles for the properties they own.
According to chairman of the board of directors, Norman Brown, thousands of persons have been given their land titles in recent times.
"We have been engaged in the distribution of titles to residents of several communities across the country. We have had community meetings and our target for this year is to distribute between 1,500 and 2,000 titles," Brown told a media briefing yesterday.
"I would say over the past four years, the agency has distributed in excess of 5,000 land titles to occupants of these communities."
The HAJ's announcement came months after Prime Minister Andrew Holness indicated that getting land titles to Jamaicans would be a key role for his administration.
The process announced by Holness was linked to a 2014 memorandum of understanding between the Land Administration and Management Programme and the Development Bank of Jamaica for the provision of a $90-million grant to fund the delivery of land titles.
"We are seeking to empower all Jamaicans with a renewed sense of ownership and pride in Jamaica by ensuring that each person has a title for their land. We want every Jamaican to have a vested interest in building Jamaica, land we love," Holness announced last August.
With the HAJ also moving to get titles into the hands of land owners, the two programmes should lead to a dramatic increase in the number of persons with their deeds.