HAJ looks upmarket for better margins
Working with private partners, the Housing Agency of Jamaica, HAJ, is putting pricier developments on the market beyond the income segment it has served in past decades. The agency, which traditionally delivers starter housing units and provide...
Working with private partners, the Housing Agency of Jamaica, HAJ, is putting pricier developments on the market beyond the income segment it has served in past decades.
The agency, which traditionally delivers starter housing units and provide titles and residences under social housing programmes, is now selling townhouses and mid-priced detached homes.
HAJ said on its website that sales are proceeding well, with some townhouses sold out.
The housing company which has a history of financial losses has also sold its mortgage portfolio.
Starting at about $17 million, the advertised prices are competitive and within the same range as mid-market homes sold by private developers. They are also cheaper than townhouses in Kingston, which, in general, have a starting price of $27 million for two-bedroom residences.
In one HAJ joint venture development, Sandown Palms in Portmore, the units start at $22.1 million. The agency also had 24 three-bedroom, 2-bathroom split-level units in Edmund Ridge, St James, starting at $19.4 million, but these are sold out.
Another development in St James, offering 63 townhouses at $17.4 million each, still have units available.
Questions sent to HAJ over a two-month timeline have received no responses.
“I have been asked to hold on [regarding] Sandown Palms just for a little. Once I can release it, I will let you know,” said the communications manager on April 11.
Subsequent emails requesting information on townhouse developments and the investments made by the agency in the projects were acknowledged but remain unanswered.
However, previous disclosures by HAJ are that in order to mitigate the impact of input cost increases for lumber, cement and steel, the agency first attempted to absorb increased costs, and then raised the price of housing units.
It came amid losses on the starter units the agency is known for.
Studios and one-bedrooms listed in Catherine Estates in Bernard Lodge in 2021 were sold for $6 million to $7 million. However, valuations for the units exceeded the asking price. The studio was valued at $9 million, while the one-bedroom homes were valued at $10.5 million.
Several of its developments now feature both starter homes and larger split-level residences. However, Sandown Palms in St Catherine comprises only townhouses in a gated community consisting of 148 units – a mix of 71 duplex townhouses and six stand-alone units of a similar design.
Sandown Palms, which is being developed on a 13 acre-property located across from the Ascot group of schools in Portmore, has a starting price of $22.1 million for the townhouses.
Construction, which began in July 2022, is being done by NF Barnes Construction and Equipment Company Limited.
As for Edmund Ridge Estates, located in Rhyne Park, Rose Hall, on the outskirts of Montego Bay, the development is being done in partnership with Henan Fifth construction group, which was responsible for the design, building and financing of the 754 residences, comprising detached houses and townhouses.
HAJ is similarly partnering with Rite Solutions Developers Limited on a residential complex of single detached homes called Hellshire View, which is located along the Hellshire main road in St Catherine. The units are priced at $17.2 million at the starting point.
For the current financial year ending March 2024, working with joint-venture partners, HAJ intends to facilitate the delivery of 866 residences to the market – split between Catherine Estates, 521 units; Edmund Ridge, 345 units – according to the Jamaica Public Bodies report produced by the Ministry of Finance:
That’s in addition to the 248 units in the Catherine Estates development and 155 units in Edmund Ridge delivered to the market in prior financial years.
Additionally, more in line with the market segment with which HAJ is associated, the housing agency will also collaborate with the National Housing Trust to construct 126 units in densely populated inner-city communities. Twenty-four of these units will be for residents who were affected by a fire in 2019.
HAJ will also distribute the 7,732 titles it currently holds under Operation PRIDE to regularise informal communities and explore strategies, such as discounted prices, to encourage collection of titles.
Its work through the New Social Housing Programme, administered by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, under the housing component of the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment programme, also continues.
Under this initiative, housing is provided for the indigent and tenement yards upgraded.
As of October 2022, HAJ said approximately 100 units were delivered to beneficiaries, and it is expected that additional units will be delivered in this fiscal year, based on needs assessments.