Tue | Aug 11, 2020

Home, sweet home! - Visually impaired man seizes chance at independence

Published:Thursday | July 2, 2020 | 12:17 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Mark Sweeney shows off keys to his new home to his cousin, Yvette Pusey, at the National Housing Trust’s handover of 200 detached two-bedroom units to beneficiaries at a ceremony at SilverSun Estate on Wednesday.
Mark Sweeney shows off keys to his new home to his cousin, Yvette Pusey, at the National Housing Trust’s handover of 200 detached two-bedroom units to beneficiaries at a ceremony at SilverSun Estate on Wednesday.

“Oh, gosh! I’m blown away!” were the first words uttered by Mark Sweeney shortly after he was presented with the keys to and documents for his new home.

Two hundred homes were handed over at SilverSun Estate in St Catherine on Wednesday by the National Housing Trust (NHT) under the Guaranteed Purchase Programme.

The programme commenced in November 2018 and allows developers to conceptualise and execute plans while the NHT absorbs the market risk by purchasing units in the development.

Of the units, 25 were reserved for public-sector workers, persons with disabilities, and members of staff.

Sweeney is a high-school music teacher who has been visually impaired since birth, and his desire to own a home grew even more in the last five years as he sought to gain more independence.

“My condition is called retinitis pigmentosa, so there is no treatment, but the use of glasses can slow down the process of me getting totally blind,” the 33-year-old said.

He has experienced a decrease in vision over the years and utilises a cane at nights and when the skies are overcast.

“A cousin of mine told me about it, and I checked it out and realised that there’s an advantage with this housing scheme. It’s 100 percent mortgaged, and the other one that I had intentions to purchase, I would only get $6 million from the bank,” he said.

His cousin, Yvette Pusey, who cheered him on through the process, accompanied him to assist with examining the home.

Sweeney said no immediate modifications would be made to the unit, but he may install rails and pave around the home if his condition worsens.

The new homeowner lauded the NHT team for the exceptional customer service he received during the application process.

“I was treated with mutual respect and understanding. Everything that a person with a disability would want to feel like a satisfied customer, I got it,” he said.

In his keynote address, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that the NHT has sought to improve the pace at which it delivers housing solutions to contributors.

He said that more than 3,200 applications were submitted for the 200 units, reflecting the “magnitude of the housing problem”.

The two-bedroom units were developed by West Indies Home Contractors Limited, with a price range of $12.4 million to $12.7 million.

SilverSun Estate is expected to offer 1,000 more homes, 150 of which should be available for occupancy before the end of 2021.

“Since inception, the NHT has contributed directly and indirectly to approximately 37,732 housing solutions in St Catherine. The NHT’s current housing plan for the parish includes five developments to complement those previously made,” Holness said, adding that these developments would bring another 3,197 homes to the market.

Holness also charged developers to commence projects they may have considered shelving because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com