Waiting in vain? Depositors angry as delays continue in promised St Catherine low-income housing scheme
Nadine Wilson-Harris, Gleaner Staff Reporter
More than one year after 675 desperate persons shelled out between $400,000 and $490,000 in deposits for their dream house in Bernard Lodge Estates (BLE), St Catherine, construction work is yet to start, and despite numerous promises from the Government none of the depositors have a clue when they will receive their keys.
Up to last Friday, the land on which the scheme was to be built was overgrown with bush and there was no sign of workmen, despite depositors being told initially that construction would begin in August 2013 and they would be able to move in by April of this year.
The depositors include 22-year-old Oneil Wilson who, desperate to leave his mother's house in a Spanish Town garrison community, decided to take a risk and opted for a high-interest loan to make the deposit on the highly publicised government low-income housing scheme.
But instead of making mortgage payments, the young firefighter finds himself having to deduct $23,000 from his modest salary each month to repay the loan.
Wilson was among hundreds of persons who rushed to the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre in June 2013 hoping to secure one of the 1,584 units in the BLE housing scheme that was advertised by the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ).
The 267 square-foot studio and 370 square-foot one bedroom units were to be built on 263 acres of land provided by the Government with financing from Malphrus International, IBC. The project was approved by the Cabinet and the units were being sold for $4 million per studio and $4.9 million for a one-bedroom.
"When I just heard about it, I was happy," said Wilson, echoing the sentiment of other applicants who spoke to The Sunday Gleaner.
"To be getting a house at 22, I was very delighted. I had so much plans and hopes in getting it. I didn't know that up to this day, I would not get it," added Wilson.
"I didn't have any money saved up, so I had to borrow all of that $400,000. It was so hectic, but it was for a good cause, so I did it and was hoping that I would be living and turning my own key now instead of paying rent or still kotching with mommy," said the firefighter, who explained that several of his colleagues had also made down payment on units.
Lives with his mother
Wilson said he was living in a rented property up to a few months ago, but given the worsening economical climate and his high loan repayment he has since moved back to live with his mother.
It was announced by the HAJ that 675 persons were successful in their bid to purchase one of the units in phases one and two of the scheme. Phases three, four and five were to be completed at a later date.
"Among the selected applicants are over 300 public-sector workers, including teachers, police, nurses, soldiers, firefighters among others. The chairman is particularly pleased to also report that several persons with disability are among the successful applicants," the HAJ reported in a press release which was placed on its website.
The names of those selected for the units were advertised in the print media and they were given two weeks to take in a 10 per cent deposit along with required documents to select their lots.
Librarian Denise, who had failed on several occasions in her bid to secure a scheme house advertised by the National Housing Trust (NHT), didn't waste any time to take in her deposit.
"That amount was good for me, because there were other developments that I was checking out, but based on the cost and what I could get from NHT as opposed to what I would have to find on my own, this was the best option for me at the time, and still is," Denise told The Sunday Gleaner.
"I want my own and I think it's time now I am under my own roof instead of paying rent," added Denise.
Apart from receiving the key for her house, Denise was looking forward to meeting her neighbours. The depositors had started a BLE Citizens' Association private Facebook page, and among other things they would discuss interior design ideas and make plans for community socials while they vented about the delays and how it is affecting their lives.
Like Denise, several of the applicants are single civil servants who had graduated university and are NHT contributors. However, they lament that they are unable to find a house in their price range. In fact, as was pointed out by one depositor, the cheapest they can find on the open market is a quad (studio) in Portmore for $5.5 million.