The National Housing Trust (NHT) of Jamaica marks 40 years in 2016. Since being signed into existence by then Prime Minister, Michael Manley in late 1975 the housing trust has more than lived up to its mandate to be “primarily responsive to the housing needs of low and middle-income earners.” In those 40 years, nearly 200,000 separate housing benefits have been administered by the trust to the citizens of Jamaica.
The NHT’s lends money at low interest rates to contributors who wish to buy, build or repair/improve their homes or who wish to buy or build on lots. It also provides low cost financing to private developers. As such, its ongoing success is pivotal to the continuing growth of Jamaica as a nation. Its stated vision is to be a role model among the world’s leading finance institutions, delivering affordable housing solutions in a service culture, with professional staff serving customers with integrity and excellence.
The NHT has introduced a number of initiatives over its lifetime which have greatly contributed to the development of the island’s housing. First and foremost,it has been consistent in being the island’s primary provider of the lowest interest rates for land purchases or construction to facilitate home ownership. The programmes it has implemented include the Home Grant, Contributions Refund Towards Deposit (commonly referred to as “CRTD”) and First Step Homes.
A Home Grant is an amount of up to one million and two hundred thousand dollars ($1,200,000.00) awarded to individuals who earn no more than ten thousand dollars and ninety-nine cents ($10,000.99) weekly; the CRTD facility may be utilised by any contributor of the NHT and allows the individual to access contributions not yet due to be refunded, as an additional loan, to be used as a deposit towards the purchase of a housing solution; the First Step Homes offer a more inexpensive alternative to purchasing a housing solution. Without the hassle of constructing their own house, Jamaicas can get a complete unit for less than two million dollars ($2,000,000), thus ensuring that more contributors have a place to call their own.
In the 2014/2015 year, the NHT’s assets grew by 7.1% over the previous year, reaching $221 billion – up from just over $206 billion in 2014/2015. The growth was mainly constituted by loans receivable, which account for over 80% of all the trust’s assets. Over the course of the year, the NHT spent $20.8 billion on mortgage and construction activities and reviewed 2,342 different housing and construction solutions. Over the course of the next two years, it intends to roll out a plan to build 9,000 houses on the island.
The NHT is an organization which recognizes that its primary function is to serve the community. As well as fulfilling its mandate of working tirelessly to provide housing and shelter for Jamaicans, its initiatives always have the wider community at their core. For example, what the statistics don’t always show is how many of the construction works funded by the organization are in fact, rejuvenation projects in lower income communities. In recent years, these works have included projects in the neighborhoods of Majesty Gardens, Frog City and White Wing.
The word ‘development’ means more to NHT than just construction, however: Its Social Development arm has employed several strategies, summarily: community governance, behavior change, environmental management, opportunities for income generation, arrears and special investigations, community development, and community competition. Community governance initiatives were introduced to over 1,000 individuals in newly developed communities where residents participated in preoccupancy/strata training.
Strategic partnerships were also brokered between communities and entities such as Universal Access Services and the Digicel Foundation, which provided computers and internet access. Under the banner of behavior change, four separate “Music for Social Transformation” proects received continued support from the NHT. The projects aim is to provide music and life skills training for youths around Jamaica. In addition, the NHT runs children’s summer camps around the island, which focus on culture and sports.
The NHT also runs an island-wide iniative known as the Best Schemes Competition. This competition seeks to encourage entrepreneurship among the NHT’s programmes participants. Every year, several million dollars are allocated to small businesses which make positive social impact across Jamaica. The NHT has several partners in this initiative: Development Options, Heart Trust NTA, the Jamaica Business Development Company, Jamaica National Foundation, UWI School of Social Entrepreurship and the Development Bank of Jamaica.
The NHT’s programmes don’t stop there, however. It is particularly proud of its collaboration with the Youth Upliftement Through Employment (Y.U.T.E.) programme. This initiative seeks to empower and ecourage young people (18-29 years), living in inner city communities by providing skills training, mentorship and certification in the field of construction. Over the years, several hundred partipants have been trained in various construction disciplines, all coming from under-privileged areas in Jamaica.
Continuing growth, growing participation
Even in its position as the major player in construction development in Jamaica, the NHT realizes it isn’t impervious to changes going on in the world. For example, it recognizes that it needs to utilize the latest advances in technology to develop to more modern and eco-friendly homes that its contributors can afford. The houses that it builds today are considerably more sustainable than those that it built 40 years ago and this is a trajectory of sustainability that it intends to continue on.
The NHT also reviews its financial product mix on an ongoing basis, constantly looking to improve on what it can deliver to its participants. Its commitment to innovation is also reflected in its increasing spend on technology and IT infrastructure: a growing number of Jamaicans now make almost all their interactions with the NHT through its online portal, for example. The NHT has grown in 40 years from being a concept to a driver of the Jamaican economy. It’s not difficult to see why it says of itself that it is “the product of a vision articulated and passionately owned.”
For more on NHT visit www.nht.gov.jm
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14 March 2016