Sabrina Gordon, Business Reporter
The National Housing Trust (NHT) has signed a memorandum of under-standing with the National Land Agency in which it has agreed to purchase land valued at $1.69 billion from the Government for housing.
The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), to which the proceeds of the sale will be given to be used for the financing of critical redevelopment at Up Park Camp, was also a signatory to the agreement.
"This project will not only improve the living condition of the men and women who protect and serve our country, but will give the historic Up Park Camp a welcome facelift," said Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, speaking at the signing ceremony at Jamaica House on Wednesday.
The land to be purchased will form part of the NHT's property holdings to be utilised for future housing developments.
Already, $32 million of the $1.69 billion has been disbursed for 12.6 acres of land at Twickenham Park, St Catherine.
However, the bulk of the land to be purchased is still to be identified by the National Land Agency, which is in charge of finding suitable government-owned properties for housing development.
The purchase of the land is to be undertaken over a four-year period, with further payment depending on finalising arrangements as the properties are identified.
"It is common for us to have a landbank, so we see it as an opportunity to get lands from the Government to go into that landbank so that we can develop housing solutions down the road," said Cecile Watson, managing director of the NHT. "So this is important to our agenda of bringing more affordable houses to the market, and so we are working with the commissioner of lands now to identify those lands, and we know we have a four-year period to get it all done."
While Watson did not disclose the agency's land inventory she said it was substantial.
"We have lots of lands across the island. For this purchase, it all depends on the size of lands that we can find and the value that they come in. The first piece is at Twickenham Park, 12.6 acres valued at $32 million. That's just a small part of the funds, so there is still a fair amount of lands to come up with for the rest of the funds," she said.
NHT is the organisation set up by the Government of Jamaica to lend money at low interest rates to contributors who wish to build, buy, repair and or make improvements to their houses.
The NHT also develops housing schemes for sale to contributors and provides low-cost financing to private developers.
Watson said the agency has several projects in varying degrees of development.
"Right now, we are looking at Mount Nelson in Manchester, the next one on our list, but we have not yet finalised the arrangement for that. We also are in the process of doing three new schemes - Longville phase three, Creighton Hall in St Thomas and Perth in Mandeville," said Watson.
The JDF will use the proceeds from the sale of the land to fund the redevelopment of Lathbury Barracks at Up Park Camp, the prime minister said.
The redevelopment to be done at the camp will comprise construction of 32 buildings of which there will be barracks or dormitory-type buildings totalling 198,000 square feet to accommodate 1,400 soldiers; offices or stores buildings totalling 92,000 square feet to house offices, lecture rooms and storage rooms; buildings for senior enlisted officers totalling 22,000 square feet to accommodate 140 persons, and buildings totalling 28,650 square feet to accommodate 70 officers, Simpson Miller said.
The redevelopment of Up Park Camp will be undertaken within the four-year period over which NHT is to purchase the land.