We want Answers: The NHT is a Social Enterprise (No Credit Checks & More Low Income Homes)

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The PNP has asked for Greater Clarity from the National Housing Trust (NHT) and Office of the Prime Minister (Jamaica House) about the Government's attempts to attack the NHT's mandate.  The Trust makes an annual surplus of $18 Billion, but less than 15% of the population benefits from the social housing enterprise built by mandatory contributions from the Jamaican people. 

Faced with a severe shortage of low income homes and an inability to access private sector loans, low-income earners rely on the NHT if they are to escape poverty and own a home to raise their families.  Already only about 25% of NHT benefits go to this desperate demography, even though they are nearly half of the contributors to the Trust.  Now Jamaicans are learning that the Government has announced more barriers to home ownership through the Trust, barriers which the could later raise. 

The Government is to answer the Opposition's serious questions about the NHT (quoted below), in the public's best interest.  The Government is to roll back its privatization trajectory and commit to at least triple the construction of low income homes, with more NHT led constructions and the addition of rent to buy high density housing solutions with safe social spaces for low income contributors. 

Questions from the PNP:

The Opposition notes with concern the recent announcement that the NHT will be requiring credit report from its borrowers.  The Opposition finds little comfort in the statement issued by the NHT as it only serves to further muddle the issue of the role of the credit report.

The NHT is a social approach to housing not a financial institution and when market driven considerations are being utilized, it fundamentally changes the role of the Trust and has the ability to drive people away from seeking the benefits it provides.

The Opposition views the requirement of a credit report as an unnecessary, bureaucratic and penal process, which contributors should not be asked to unexpectedly face.  Additionally, the NHT has a very extensive assessment regime which provides all the relevant information it needs to make the determination and undertake the projects or initiatives it mentions.

The general question (there are five more below) from the Opposition is:

What really is the Government’s true motive behind such a dire action?  

Opposition Spokesman on Housing Luther Buchanan said:

“Home ownership must remain a deep-seated part of our development as a nation, as it has a significant impact on people’s self worth, civic mindedness, community participation and overall quality of life.” “Nothing therefore must be done to stymie the common person’s ability to own a home and this new contemplation by the government does not help their cause.”

According to Senator Sophia Frazer-Binns, Opposition Spokesperson on Land, the NHT remains one of the unsullied examples of how public institutions should work for our people.

“We as the Opposition treasure the concept of the NHT and are very proud of the Trust’s historical successes of providing shelter for thousands of Jamaicans, so nothing must be done to put a damper on this”, Frazer-Binns said.

FIVE QUESTIONS FOR THE NHT AND OPM

The Opposition therefore seeks answers to these specific questions from the NHT and the Office of the Prime Minster:

1.      Is NHT still operating as a social enterprise (Trust) or a Financial Institution?

2.      What is the exact role and purpose of the credit report if not used to consider the amount of mortgage one can benefit from and the amount of money an institution can lend?

3.       Is this what the Prime Minster meant when he said the Trust must develop a fiduciary relationship with its contributors?

The NHT has said the credit report “will assist the Trust in loan rescheduling, granting moratoria or other initiatives to assist mortgagors in arrears or facing difficulties.

a.     How does the Trust envision this working and will it require credit report for new and existing beneficiaries?

b.     How will the credit report assist the NHT in identifying consumers in need of special provisions?

c.     Has the Trust changed its policy on granting of subsidies?

4.      Who will bear the cost of the credit report?

5.      Have there been any consultations with beneficiaries and companies both private and public?



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