Letter of the day | Let NHT buy up lands of tax-weary proprietors
THE EDITOR, Sir:
There have been rumours that the Government will seek to increase property taxes to help fund the 2017-18 Budget.
While that increase is understood to be geared primarily towards raising much-needed funds to assist the parish councils in carrying out certain functions, any plan to draw down on National Housing Trust funds to pay down the debt must not be allowed to render the NHT less capable of carrying out its mandate of providing affordable housing solutions for its contributors.
It is incumbent on the Government to put in place some additional mechanisms that will enable the NHT to provide more affordable service lots to its contributors, thereby helping them to build their own home within their own time and convenience.
I would like, therefore, to propose that the minister with responsibility for land and the NHT consider setting up a programme whereby the NHT, in collaboration with the Land Administration and Management Programme (LAMP), is tasked with identifying suitable parcels of large privately owned vacant land with a view of having the NHT purchasing these lands and, thereafter, having them developed into affordable service lots for sale to contributors to the NHT, in particular to those contributors within the public service.
I have found, as an estate-management consultant, that there are many such privately owned acres of undeveloped land all across Jamaica (registered and unregistered), many of which are lying idle.
UNABLE TO AFFORD TAXES
The sad thing about all of this, however, is that many of these land owners are not able to pay their property tax. In fact, most of them have expressed to me a willingness to sell some portions of property because of the costs associated with having the land properly surveyed and splintered, as well as having to put in place the required infrastructure such as roads, drainage, electricity and water before they can seriously contemplate going to the parish council to apply for subdivision, not to mention the high cost of attorney and other statutory fees.
The Government should go the route of having the NHT acquire some of these idle parcels of land. Not only will it improve property tax compliance and revenue collection, but it will also help to stir economic activity in some parishes where these lands are located, as well as to give more contributors to the NHT an opportunity to own a piece of land on which to build their own home.