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Gov't mulls cheaper housing solution

Published:Thursday | May 9, 2013 | 12:00 AM

A HOUSING breakthrough could be under way for low-income Jamaicans as the Government considers the mass roll-out of units, which are said to cost less than $1 million to construct.

Dr Omar Davies, the minister of transport, works and housing, told fellow legislators in Gordon House on Tuesday that charity institution Food For The Poor (FFP) has pioneered the construction of houses for US$9,500.

Carvel Stewart, president of the Incorporated Masterbuilders Association of Jamaica (IMAJ), told The Gleaner that he supports the move to provide alternative affordable solutions.

Stewart said housing units that are now offered on the market are about $10,000 per square foot, which would translate to approximately $3.6 million for a 360-square-foot unit.

He said, however, that he did not know if he was comparing like with like when the prices of two 360-square-foot units - one provided on the open market, and the other done by FFP - are compared.

"I don't see us offering houses to people that are of lower standards," Stewart said. "I would hate to believe that we are not trying to give them something of normal standards."

He added: "Unless I see drawings, it sounds as if we might not be providing everything that is provided in the other house," the masterbuilder president said.

In opening the Sectoral Debate, Davies said FFP has come up with a 360-square-foot housing unit, which they will sell to the National Housing Trust (NHT).

"The collaboration between Food For The Poor and the NHT in terms of the construction of concrete units presents hope to a segment of the housing market which previously had little expectation of owning their own unit," Davies said.

Land not included

He told legislators that the cost of the house does not take into account infrastructure such as land.

"They have done what all the experts told us could not be done. They are now constructing it, and I have told the prime minister that what we need to do is to get bands of construction workers throughout the country who can replicate this," Davies said.

He added: "This unit also is to provide for persons who were outside of the demand ... persons making between $5,000 and $7,500 (per week)."

He told Parliament that the Government is going to train "a whole new set of workers and contractors that they can deliver that unit for that sum".

Last week, NHT Chairman Easton Douglas said the FFP housing units were likely to come out at a cost of $1.77 million each. He said each unit has a concrete floor and is built with six-inch concrete block and steel, with a zinc roof, bathroom and dining room with space for a stove and refrigerator. The space can be divided into two bedrooms.