CMC – The Jamaica government says the loan limit for a single applicant to the National Housing Trust (NHT) will increase by one million dollars to J$7.5 million (One Jamaica dollar=US$0.008 cents) effective July 1 this year.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness told Parliament during his contribution to the 2023/24 budget debate that where a single contributor is buying a housing solution priced at J$12 million or less, that individual may access up to J$8.5 million towards mortgage financing for the unit.
“This is to incentivise housing developments in affordable housing for low-income earners. This will also create more effective demand for housing solutions at the targeted price point,” he told legislators.
Holness said that the NHT will continue to provide 100 per cent financing for houses built by the Trust, subject to the availability of funding for such purposes.
In addition, two persons applying jointly will be able to access funding of up to J$15 million, up from J$13 million.
In 2022, the NHT re-introduced its policy to allow up to three contributors to co-apply for a single NHT scheme unit comprising two-bedroom units or larger, to better improve affordability.
A key provision of this policy is that proof must be established that the applicants are bona fide family members, and have demonstrable kinship ties, for example wives, husbands, children, and siblings.
“In light of the proposed revised loan limits, three co-applicants will be able to access funding of up to J$21 million, up from J$19.5 million. ”
The NHT is to introduce a new interest rate band of five per cent, effective July 1, 2023, for persons earning over J$100,000 per week.
The distribution of NHT contributors by the income bands shows that 66 per cent are eligible for mortgage financing at zero per cent interest, and less than eight per cent of contributors will fall into the new five per cent rate band.
Meanwhile, Holness also announced on Thursday that effective April 1, Jamaicans will no longer be required to pay tuition or administrative fees for HEART-NSTA Trust programmes up to level four (associate degree).
“This will allow for access to vocational training for all Jamaicans, regardless of economic status. This will be a game changer for poor, underserved youth, who see fees as an obstacle for participation in formal training,” he said, noting that waiving the fees is in keeping with the government’s mandate to increase the provision of trained labour for industry.
“For the first time in our history, Jamaica is approaching full employment with an unemployment rate in the region of six per cent. At this level of employment, there will be labour shortages, which will impact business operations and output,” Mr. Holness pointed out.
He told Parliament that there are approximately 739,000 Jamaicans outside the labour force, of which approximately 150,000 are unattached youth who are not actively seeking employment.
“The policy objective now, must be to get more Jamaicans into the labour force with work ready attitudes and requisite skills at all levels,” Holness said.
The Trust has also been directed to modernise its offerings to better respond to global trends relating to automation, smart manufacturing, artificial intelligence, and high-value services.
Prime MInister Holness said the agency continues to develop Centres of Excellence and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) labs at several of its institutions.
He noted that the HEART College of Construction will host a Centre of Excellence focusing on welding and industrial automation, and the Ebony Park Academy will host a similar facility with a focus on soil testing and tissue culture.
“The HEART College of Innovation and Technology will focus on Information Security, Mobile Application Development and Mobile Robotics,” Prime Minister Holness said.
Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke, who last week presented a tax free one trillion dollar budget, will wind up debate on March 21.