Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer
THE NATIONAL Housing Trust (NHT) will continue to fund low-income housing despite startling delinquency among mortgagors in its inner-city housing project, chairman Howard Mitchell said on Tuesday.
Mitchell made the declaration during the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce's annual general meeting at Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
"To be honest, it has not yet been a success in terms of a financial venture, but it has been a moderate success in terms of community building," Mitchell told The Gleaner.
"We have closed off our inner-city project, but the next time we approach inner-city refurbishing we will do so in a different way, matched with economic drivers that provide jobs for people," he added.
Mitchell said the NHT has contracted the Housing Agency of Jamaica Ltd to construct Portmore Villas, a scheme located off the Dyke Road in St Catherine. It is expected to comprise 70 studio units, each costing $3 million.
There was much enthusiasm when the NHT's inner-city programme was launched in Denham Town, West Kingston, in April 2005, with residents getting the chance to own a home. Other $2.1 million, two-bedroom schemes were subsequently unveiled in Majestic Gardens, White Wing, Spanish Town Road and Swallowfield with a monthly mortgage of $6,000.
Mitchell revealed that delinquency among mortgagors in the five schemes is currently at 54 per cent, up from 37 per cent one year ago. The 580 units cost $900 million to build, which is approximately one per cent of the NHT's assets.
"It has not affected us in terms of viability, but delinquency is still too high," said Mitchell.
Citing the non-payment of mortgages in his own constituency of West Kingston, Prime Minister Bruce Golding temporarily halted the innercity housing project in early 2008. He said delinquency was putting a strain on the NHT, which was established to assist contributors to purchase homes.
Golding pointed out that the NHT had allocated $5 billion to construct 3,000 inner-city homes, but less than 20 per cent of them were built, at a cost of $2 billion.
He said it would have cost the NHT an additional $15.5 billion to complete the programme, funds the organisation did not have.
Mitchell disclosed that the NHT plans to launch an islandwide series of forums to sensitise contributors to its new initiatives. He said members will also have a say in future projects.