Avia Collinder, Business Reporter
The National Housing Trust (NHT) has given up on private developers, but not its plan to place cheap houses on the market.
Instead, it is now developing starter units in partnership with a charity group, which the housing agency hopes to sell at J$1.2 million each to contributors who already own land.
The so-called 'First Step' homes are designed as detached units built on individual serviced lots.
For more than four years, the NHT has been offering developers cheap loan capital priced as low as three per cent to build homes valued at under J$5 million - including studio units priced at J$3 million and lower - for delivery to low- income contributors.
But builders have avoided the offer, saying the deal leaves them with limited room to make a profit off such projects.
NHT's solution is to partner with Food for the Poor to deliver the units.
"The units are being constructed under a joint-venture agreement between Food For the Poor and the Government of Jamaica, acting through the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, the Ministry of Finance, the minister of housing, and the NHT," the agency told Wednesday Business in response to queries.
"Food For the Poor is the contractor for the houses, and has agreed to build each unit at a cost of US$9,500."
That price converts to J$969,000 at current exchange rates.
"The units being built by Food For the Poor are not the usual wooden structures commonly referred to as Food For the Poor houses," said NHT.
"These units are made of reinforced concrete, concrete screed, and include a bathroom and space for a kitchen. Where the units are built under the trust's Build On Own Land facility, there is no subsidy. Where the units are built on NHT land, the supporting infrastructure is subsidised," it said.
The first set of 74 First Step homes was developed at Hampden in Trelawny and beneficiaries for these units were selected following on an advertisement for applications in December 2012.
Another set of 28 will soon hit the market, the agency told Wednesday Business.
The basic unit is 320 square feet. This, the Trust notes, is larger than the standard NHT studio unit, which is 230.8 sq ft.
The units include electrical wiring and stanchion; concrete walls and flooring; bathroom area with shower stall, but excluding face basin and wall tiles; PVC louvre windows; metal-clad front and rear doors; timber-frame roof with alu-steel sheeting and plumbing.
"The unit is a starter housing unit and it is not completely outfitted. Beneficiaries will therefore be required to install their own kitchen sink and cabinets, face basin, partitions, ceiling and floor finishes," NHT says on its website.
Contributors must be in the low-income band to qualify for First Step, with a pay packet of up to J$7,500 per week, no previous NHT loan, except for serviced lots and house lot loans.
The trust indicates that it will incorporate future First Step Homes in some of its general housing schemes.
Persons who fit its qualifying criteria may also apply to have First Step homes constructed by the NHT on their land.
"Sixteen holders of serviced lots have indicated interest in having the units built on their lots and are now being processed," said the housing agency. "Thirty units are now being constructed at Meylersfield in Westmoreland."