No housing scheme in 30 years
The National Housing Trust (NHT) is being accused by stakeholders in Hanover of being negligent after not constructing a single housing scheme in the parish for over three decades. The lands the trust have acquired have turned out to be unsuitable for housing development.
According to the recently released performance audit of the NHT, which was conducted by the Auditor General's Department (AGD) during the last 10 years, lands valued at J$971.3 million were purchased by the agency in Point Estate, Parbucle, Industry Cove, and Cousins Cove in Hanover..
To the chagrin of stakeholders, including prospective developers, the audit has revealed that the lands, which were acquired after approval for purchase was granted by the NHT board, were either zoned for agricultural purposes only or will "incur exorbitant cost to develop because of the terrain".
The apparent blunder by the NHT does not sit well with Paul Trench, a Lucea-based quantity surveyor, who is at a loss as to how the NHT could have bought the lands without conducting the necessary due diligence.
"When you are looking at land that you are considering for that (housing) development, you have to look at the suitability. Due diligence is very important," said Trench. "So depending on the development that you are doing, you have to do your tests to see if that soil type will be able to carry the type of development that you want."
According to the AGD, the lands at Point Estate, which were purchased for $869.4 million in December 2005, were "characterised by steep slopes, which would result in high infrastructure and development costs. A portion of the Point Estate - 23.03 acres - was subsequently sold to a tourism entity for J$115.15 million."
With regard to the 119.54 acres Parbucle property, which the NHT bought in 2013 for $14.9 million; the Cousins Cover, which was bought for $65 million; and the 12.86 acres Industry Cove property, which cost the agency J$22 million, they, too, proved unsuitable for reasons including "zoned for agricultural use only," "excess slope" or "no housing development plans".
failure to replenish housing stock
Sydoney Brackett, an NHT contributor with roots in Lucea, told Western Focus that it was the agency's failure to replenish Hanover's housing stock that led her to migrate to Trelawny.
"I am quite disgruntled and disappointed in the NHT. The last scheme the NHT built was the Esher Housing Scheme, and that was before I was born," said Brackett, who is now faced with additional expenses to commute to work as well as being pulled away from family, friends, and her comfort zone. "Over the years, the population has grown in Hanover and there is no housing to cater for Hanoverians."
Jannette Burke, a social worker and resident of Green Island, said many Hanoverians are in despair as they are unable to build homes from scratch, while others who relocate are burdened by transportation costs.
"I don't think they (NHT) cater for people in Hanover. Most Hanoverians are not rich, but it is our ambition to own a home ... if none is being provided here, we have to be looking to other parishes, and that means uprooting our entire foundation, finding new jobs and new schools for our children," said Burke, who wants the NHT to build lower-income and middle-income houses in the parish to address the existing need.
"I know of a Hanoverian who operates a business here, and he had to buy a house in Trelawny," said Burke. "He still had to rent a place in Hanover because of the travelling costs. NHT needs to find suitable land and build and adjust their cluster-housing policy to accommodate more people who probably want to do a joint subdivision. At the moment, it is only 18 people they allow to do a cluster."
The NHT Act requires all employed persons between the ages of 18 and 65 years to make contributions to the trust in the form of two per cent of gross salary, while corporate entities pay three per cent. The employer's portion of the contribution is non-refundable, while the employee's two per cent contribution is refundable.