Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller has hailed the launch of the National Housing Trust’s FIRST STEP Homes programme as being pivotal to the Government’s efforts to transform lives, especially of persons in the lower income group. The Prime Minister added that her government is focused on getting houses and lands to as many persons as possible and expressed confidence that the FIRST STEP programme is moving this objective in the right direction.
The Prime Minister, who is also the NHT’s portfolio minister was speaking on December 19, 2012 , at a ceremony hosted by the Trust to launch the FIRST STEP housing product and to hand over letters of possession to 73 persons at the Hampden Housing development in Trelawny. The beneficiaries were receiving their land ownership documents under the Sugar Workers Housing Programme (SWHP).
Pointing to the advantages of the programme, the prime minister said it would boost the housing stock, help the Trust remain true to its mandate, and support the government’s employment creation programme, because it was conceptualised as part of the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP). She further described the programme as being more than about transforming lives, as it is also intended to transform communities and move people from welfare to wellbeing and wealth creation.
First Step Homes, a new low income housing product, is one of the housing initiatives Mrs. Simpson Miller announced during her 2012 Budget Debate presentation. It will benefit NHT contributors earning up to $7,500 per week. The product is a basic studio unit with potential for upgrading and expansion as beneficiaries’ incomes will allow. Monthly repayments start as low as $5,900. NHT in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing and Food for the Poor will produce First Step Homes at a cost of approximately $1.1 million each, excluding land and major infrastructure works. The unit is a super studio with floor area of 29.7 metres (320 sq. ft.), and adequate facilities for expansion. Under this programme, 600 First Step Homes will be provided per year over a five year period to low income earners.
Minister of Housing, Dr. Omar Davies, who also spoke at the ceremony said the launch of the FIRST STEP Homes product was an occasion to celebrate, as housing was linked to stability of the family. He also positioned the initiative as a good example of joined up government, an observation which was also made by NHT Board chairman, Mr. Easton Douglas who in his presentation also spoke of the inadequate housing conditions in which sugar workers traditionally lived.
Member of Parliament for North Trelawny, Mr. Patrick Atkinson, referred to the potential of the programme to empower low income earners in that it was helping them to fulfil their Jamaican dream. In her welcome address, managing director of the NHT, Mrs. A. Cecile Watson, underscored the advantages and impact of incremental building as a way to home ownership. In commending the FIRST STEP Homes product to potential beneficiaries, Mrs. Watson advised them that they could always return to the NHT to access funding for upgrading purposes, once they met the eligibility requirements for additional funding.
Food for the Poor was represented at the ceremony by its Senior Director, Mr. Ron Burgess who said his entity was grateful to be participating in what he termed “this historic moment,” in referring to the launch of the FIRST STEP Home product.
Posted By :National Trust
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