'I am the builder' - Holness claims title for building houses for Jamaicans
Describing himself as "the builder", Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday declared that his administration was on track this fiscal year to deliver 8,500 mortgages to new homeowners - a new record in the National Housing Trust's 40-year history. The loans, said Holness, convert to $28 billion.
Addressing Labourites at the Jamaica Labour Party's 74th annual conference at the National Arena in Kingston, Holness pointed out that 5,500 housing starts would be completed by the National Housing Trust (NHT) this fiscal year.
He said that this would ensure that the squatting problem in Jamaica is reduced as affordable housing starts would be made available to Jamaicans.
NO NEED FOR COMMISSION
In a clear swipe at Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, the prime minister said that there was no need for him to set up a commission to tackle the issue of squatting in Jamaica.
"It just tells me that those people don't understand the Jamaican struggle such that they have to go and set up commission," Holness said.
"I don't need to set up any commission to figure out how to address the issue of squatting. I am a builder. I know what it is to take one block and put it on top of another and put another on top of it."
At the People's National Party Conference in September, Phillips outlined plans to establish a land-ownership commission to devise radical strategies and effective proposals to fix the problem of squatting.
Phillips had said that if the PNP formed the next administration, it would create a legal path for the nearly 700,000 squatters to become homeowners.
However, Holness maintained: "Mi not appointing nuh commission to study squatting. Mi nuh read bout it inna book. Mi born and grow it and understand it.
"So when it comes to house, I am the builder fi house inna Jamaica."
He also taunted the PNP, saying that they spent more time "arguing about other people's house" in the last general election instead of telling Jamaicans how they were going to deliver housing to them.
Phillips had raised questions about how Holness funded his multimillion-dollar Beverly Hills house.
According to Holness, the NHT is probably the most powerful and efficient housing financing agency in the Caribbean.
"Instead of them using it, they sat on the NHT and did nothing with the NHT."
Holness asserted that he understood the struggles of the Jamaican people, noting that his mother - a civil servant - was the beneficiary of an NHT house.
He said that under the PNP government, the NHT delivered 1,790 housing starts in 2012; a little less, with 1,689 in 2013; the following year, 1,548; and 1,270 housing starts in 2015.
The PNP's late charismatic leader and former prime minister Michael Manley orchestrated the establishment of the NHT in 1976.