Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
A PACKAGE of benefits from the National Housing Trust (NHT) for public-sector workers, who had agreed to a wage freeze until 2015, was yesterday unveiled by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller during her contribution to the 2013-2014 Budget Debate.
As a reward for the sacrifices made by government employees, the prime minister announced that 250 acres of land has been identified in Ebony Vale, St Catherine, to build houses for public-sector workers.
"This will reduce the cost of housing for public-sector workers," she told parliamentarians and a standing-room only turnout of persons who viewed her presentation.
According to the prime minister, other suitable parcels of land would also be identified for government employees.
Arguing the Government had not taken the sacrifices of public-sector workers for granted, the prime minister also reeled off a string of incentives from the NHT for public servants.
The one per cent reduction in interest rates to government workers up to March 31, 2013, has been extended until 2015.
For the four-year period, January 2014 to January 2017, public servants with NHT mortgages will be eligible for contribution refunds.
The NHT's policy on contribution refunds stipulates that these sums are applied to reduce the principal of the mortgagor's account in January of each year.
However, this restriction will be removed for all public-sector workers over the next four years.
"This initiative will benefit 31,000 public-sector mortgagors and will give them access to approximately $790 million annually," Simpson Miller told her parliamentary colleagues.
DISCOUNT ON PREMIUMS
Additionally, beginning September 1, this year, public-sector workers will be given a 15 per cent discount on peril insurance premiums.
"They will also continue to benefit from a 15 per cent discount below NHT standard insurance rates for the period through to March 31, 2017," the prime minister added.
"This will change the previous arrangement where there would be a rebate payment in December each year. We are frontloading this benefit so that public-sector mortgagors will pay less starting in September," Simpson Miller explained.
At the same time, the prime minister sprinkled a few benefits on non-public sector NHT mortgagors. For this group of mortgagors, there will be no increase in peril insurance rates for the current year of coverage spanning April 1 to March 31, 2014.
The trust has also increased loan limits on serviced lots in NHT schemes from $1.5 million to $2.5 million.