The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, MP
NHT Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Village of Colbeck Castle
July 14, 2017
In all kinds of ways we store wealth in currency we put it in the bank. We store wealth in talent and knowledge, keep it here and we store wealth in edifices and physical representation, buildings such as these but of course the challenge with wealth like everything else as was said before by Mr. Dehan that there is a sunset and out of the sunset there is also a sunrise. It is the cycle of life; the cycle of how things are so even the greatest things at time will not just deteriorate, they will depreciate in value and it is left up to cycle of life to find the value in even things that have depreciated; so there is value in this building.
I’m certain that Mayor Scott, this is part of the heritage of the people of St. Catherine and much more should be done to ensure that it deteriorates no further and that we reclaim the value in it. So as was said being the prime minister of the NHT I’m giving a direction to Martin that when this property is being developed my good friend Mr. Mullings who listed a long list of things he’s contributing to the country, both Martin, Mr. Mullings and Mr. Scott will all pool together to ensure that this building is restored to what I see on that picture that was given to me and I’m serious about it Martin.
The instruction has been given so distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen it is my great pleasure to be with you this afternoon.
Housing development plays an important role in planned economic development, and the multiplier effect in areas such as employment, health, wealth creation and savings all contribute to Jamaica’s growth and development.
The NHT continues to fulfil its mandate of “building more houses”, and I am pleased to be here today breaking ground for the Villages of Colbeck Castle.
This particular development is one of partnership. The NHT has 70% equity in this development while BCR Industries Company Limited has 30% equity in the joint venture.
The NHT will finance the infrastructure work for all phases, from which BCR will select and pay the joint venture for its 30% share of the serviced lot.
The Villages of Colbeck Castle will deliver approximately 2,000 housing solutions in five phases over the next three years on 394.7 acres of land spread between St. Catherine and Clarendon.
I was just looking at the layout and I noticed that some of the houses are actually on the border so I don’t know how you’re going to assign addresses. You may have to apply to the Parish Council to have the boundaries just shifted along some major lines whether it your drainage that is there or a road that is there. I see the mayor nodding in approval so you might want to take that on very quickly.
Phase one and two will have five hundred and ninety-five service lots and based upon the commitment given by Mr. Mullings they will finish on time next year 2018. Phase three and four will have eight hundred and sixty-three service lots and those are scheduled for completion in 2019. Phase five will have four hundred and sixty-seven service lots scheduled for completion in 2020 slated to be a very important year.
Today we are breaking ground for Phases 1 and 2 of the project which will as I said before comprise 595 serviced lots to be delivered in 2018.
The plan for the development includes areas designated for one high school and I’m very happy for that because St. Catherine is indeed overcrowded as it relates to its high schools. High schools have been doing fairly well but I’m certain that we could get much more performance out of our students if they had better conditions under which to learn.
I see you have four spaces reserved for four basic schools but these are basic schools and/ or parks. A community like this would possibly need four basic schools but I’m certain that you may want to consider consolidation for management and service delivery purposes.
Provisions for parks which I must say that parks not just for beautification. Parks are necessary for our health and non-communicable are our biggest killers believe it or not. The sedentary lifestyle in addition to our diet is contributing significantly to the loss of productive life in the country and so every development that the NHT is doing they are mandated to ensure that when you go to work and you around the desk you shouldn’t come home and sit around your couch or TV. You should be able to come out in safety and security and just walk and enjoy the greenery around you.
It is a holistic concept that we must value and preserve for many years to come while we note the need for preservation of our properties; we also note the historic value of the site.
Colbeck and Colbeck Castle were named after John Colbeck, who received a grant of 1,340 acres of land as reward for helping to capture Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655. At different points in history, Colbeck produced sugar and tobacco. Two of the crops that people say contribute to the rise of NCB.
The historic Colbeck Castle is located within the development site. The castle is owned by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. It became a national monument in 1985 and was declared a heritage site in 1990.
So now that I’ve given the directions you will collaborate with these three gentlemen to ensure that the Castle is restored. It’s just an amazing thing that buildings like these we look at them for their historic value and probably feel that they have no utility other than heritage but I tend to take a different view. I think we should restore these buildings and have them functional so people can live within their walls and produce value out of them. That doesn’t change the fact that it is historic but when the building is able to be used, it is better preserved rather than it is just there being very tempting for people to come and dig one brick at a time, take one stone and then you pass on the roadside and you see the stacks of brick for sale and you wonder where are these bricks coming from. Well they may very well be coming from the historic Colbeck Castle so let us use our historic buildings to create value not to just lock them off and let them stay there and deteriorate even further.
The housing development will incorporate the historical artifacts of Colbeck. Artifacts include an aqueduct, a wheel house, two structures that might have been the boiling house and the distillery, and the Colbeck Castle itself.
The Villages of Colbeck Castle will bring to 7,825 the number of housing solutions the Trust plans to start in St. Catherine and Clarendon by 2021 or rather would have started and probably completed by 2021. Now that is more housing than the NHT has done in the last two or three years significantly so. Just in St. Catherine alone the NHT is doing an amazing job because we have given the NHT a new mandate.
I say in Jamaican terms the mandate is to build more houses and you know my passion with houses already but there is a reason why you have to build more housing, more planned structured developments. We want to increase the pace. In other words we want to build more housing at a faster pace, faster than the demand that exist and faster than the temptation that is there for people to squat because they don’t have access to affordable planned development. So the idea is right across Jamaica to build faster than the squatters so that the people who plan to squat will take a second thought and say “it is more expensive for me to go and squat on the land, it’s probably easier for me to just go to the NHT, put my case before them, see the plan that they have that suits my pocket and live in a planned development. It’s better for everybody because there is this notion in Jamaica for universal service provision, wherever I choose to live the government must carry the service and give it to me.
That is impossible because when you choose to live on a hillside that is very steep or on the side of a gully or way up in the hills somewhere, it cost the government to individually carry the service to where you choose to live. Sometimes the level of infrastructure cost required is just not practical. The government is not saying we don’t have a responsibility for universal service, we do but how do we provide housing universally?
We do that by having planned developments in areas like these where we can mitigate the impact of climate change where we know there exist tested and proven supply of water, where there are existing transportation routes, where we already have hospital, schools and most importantly established security presence but it can’t be that we have to go and establish water supply, security presence, hospital in a random or to use the Jamaican term in a “chaka chaka way”. We can’t make Jamaica a chaka chaka place.
In the next phase of our development fifty-five years of independence we’re going to make Jamaica an orderly place; not just orderly in our behavior but orderly in how we choose to settle our land Jamaica.
Just to go back to my original point, in Clarendon by 2021 we would have started or completed:
(1) 2,123 solutions at Longville Park 2A, 3A and 4
(2) 786 solutions at Sheckles, phases 1 and 2
(3) 96 solutions at Jacksonville
(4) 556 solutions at Birds Hills, phases 1 and 2
(5) 344 solutions at Monymusk Country Estate
(6) 550 solutions at Ebony Park
(7) 65 solutions at The Villages of Colbeck Castle
In St. Catherine you will have 3,305 solutions:
(1) 1,860 solutions at The Villages of Colbeck Castle
(2) 810 solutions at Caymanas, phases 1 and 2
(3) 44 solutions at Eltham Farm
(4) 116 solutions at Green Village
(5) 98 solutions at Heathfield Palms
(6) 206 solutions at Hellshire, phases 2 and 3
(7) 134 solutions at Twickenham Phase 4
(8) 37 solutions at Mary Field
Ladies and gentlemen the Housing Trust is working, working, working.
With improved NHT policies since 2016 contributors will be in a better position to afford these and other solutions. Just a reminder of some of the improved policies:
Widening the income band, a move that allows more contributors to benefit from NHT’s lowest interest rates. For example, contributors earning between minimum wage and $12,000 weekly now borrow NHT loans at a zero percent interest rate.
Contributors can get 100% financing when buying an NHT scheme unit or lot. If you were planning and eyeing a piece of land to go and move on and capture it like we said in our introduction, Mr Colbeck assisted the British in capturing Jamaica; if you were planning to do that just pause a minute and look at what the NHT is doing. If you’re earning twelve thousand or less per week check the NHT. The NHT is building between St. Catherine and Clarendon over seven thousand units and you can get if you meet the qualifications 100% financing on it. That means you don’t have to worry about the deposit. So you know what we are saying, you could have sympathy for squatting if the government wasn’t building but now the government is building so the sympathy for squatting must decline. If there is the ability and the solutions are being provided then we cannot countenance squatting in our country.
It is easier to qualify for an NHT Home Grant. The Home Grant is an amount of $2.5 million. To qualify, contributors must have contributed for at least 7 years and they must be earning up to $12,000 per week. Before 2016, contributors had to be contributing for at least 10 years and they would need to be earning between minimum wage and $7,500 per week. Qualified contributors may apply for the grant when they are ready to buy or build a house or buy a lot. So what we’ve done is we’ve reduced the number of years it would take you to qualify and this is a grant- I don’t like to say free money. There’s no free money, it’s somebody’s money but this is a grant to you.
The NHT is doing all it can to make home ownership much easier and we’re going to reach the point in Jamaica where the cost of squatting believe it or not will be higher than the cost of acquiring your legal home.
I am also pleased to note that for the Housing Microfinance Loan Programme which was also announced during my budget presentation; the NHT signed the first agreement under a credit union partnership and this is very innovative financing scheme. What this does is allow you to access secured or unsecured credit to do the things that you need to do to improve your home or to improve your security and ownership of your house and I recommend it to all Jamaicans but there are some new policies that I want to spend a little time on today.
Prior to May 1, 2017, a NHT contributor who was a homeowner, but had never accessed a NHT mortgage benefit, was eligible for a maximum loan of $1.5M. Such contributors may now as of July 1 access a maximum loan of $2.5M. So we are widening the reach of the NHT, increasing the allocation to ensure that all Jamaicans have a housing solution for them.
The Fifteen Plus loan – this one kind of confused me when I heard of it but what I gather this means is that if you were an NHT beneficiary before fifteen years ago, well the policy of the NHT- the general policy but a good policy is that you shouldn’t double dip. You should just get one benefit to allow someone who has not gotten a benefit a chance to get the benefit but when you start to analyze the use of the resources it really depends on how fast new users are using up the resources.
If you have persons who could use the funds, pay it off quickly and don’t impact the rate at which new users are using the fund then you could make some allowances in the policy but the policy still stands. The priority is for persons who have never accessed a benefit before so if it comes a time when there is a trade off in the use of the funds then the new users will always win.
The board can within its discretion maintaining the overall policy can maximize the benefit of the fund where there is no critical trade- off between new users and persons who have accessed before. That is the Fifteen Plus Loan.
Now prior to May you would only get $1.5M but for the Fifteen Plus Loan now we’ve also increased that to $2.5M.
Applicants wishing to get a Fifteen Plus Loan will be required to satisfy the established eligibility and affordability criteria, additionally the purposes for which the Fifteen Plus Loan is used remain unchanged and the purposes are as follows:
- Repair, improve or expand the existing mortgaged property; or
- Purchase or construct a residential property. This would apply only if the NHT beneficiary is no longer a homeowner; or
- Purchase and install a solar energy system, including solar panel; or
- Purchase and install hurricane shutters
Just in my rumination on this, if you’re going to do solar why not do something that helps with water.
On November 1, 2015, the NHT increased its loan limit for Open Market loans to $5.5M which applied to new applicants who were constructing on their own or who were purchasing residential property in new developments having a Practical Completion Certificate dated September 1, 2015 and after. Open Market applicants not purchasing new buildings were able to access a maximum of $4.5M, the previous loan limit. Applicants wishing to get an Open Market loan will be required to satisfy the established eligibility and affordability criteria. Additionally, the purposes for which the Open Market Loan is to be used remain unchanged.
So now you can do open market operations not for $4.5M which you’re not getting many homes being built in that price range anymore so we’re moving closer to what the average market rate is for new homes which is $5.5M.
Again the NHT is making it affordable, accessible and it’s giving you the effective demand for housing.
Ladies and gentlemen I make it a point of duty to come to every single groundbreaking. I dig up more dirt in Jamaica than anybody else and I mean soil because we have to prove the point that we’re not allowing the NHT money to sit there and tantalize people to be used in all kinds of plots and plans and schemes. We’re using the NHT money to build more houses.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.