Housing for poor: Jamaican model that India can replicate

May 31st, 2008 - 2:32 pm ICT by admin  

By Aroonim Bhuyan
Dubai, May 31 (IANS) An affordable housing scheme being followed in the Caribbean nation of Jamaica may well be worth emulating in India, which is planning its own social housing project. Called the National Housing Trust (NHT), the Jamaican scheme takes contributions from both the employer and employee, much on the lines of India’s provident fund policy, for giving affordable housing to all sections of society.

“The Jamaican model, which calls for contributions from the employers and employees for providing housing to all sections of the society, certainly sounds interesting for India,” P.K. Mohanty, mission director of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), told IANS here.

“After all, we are also planning to implement a social housing scheme on a mass scale,” he said.

Mohanty was here to participate in a workshop on ‘Bridging Policy and Research’, organised by the Global Development Network (GDN), a worldwide network of research and policy institutes, and the Dubai School of Government (DSG) this week.

Established in 1976, the NHT is a unique partnership in which two percent of the gross wages of workers and three percent of employers’ wage bills are channelled into the Trust.

Jamaica’s cabinet secretary Carlton Earl Davis said: “Our housing policy is one of Jamaica’s success stories. Implemented in 1976, it has been maintained by successive governments with good results.

“It helps reduce the gap in housing needs between the more privileged and less privileged. I certainly think that it can be replicated in India,” said Davis, who was here to attend the workshop.

Housing is a top priority for India’s JNNURM which focuses on “reforms and fast track planned development of identified cities”.

The main thrust of sub-mission 2 of JNNURM is on integrated development of slums through projects for providing shelter, basic services and other related civic amenities with a view to providing utilities to the urban poor.

It is in this context that the Jamaican model has aroused India’s interest.

The NHT was established to address the housing shortage, which resulted from a growing population and the inadequate annual output of houses by the public and private sectors.

The trust emerged out of the need for a financial institution that could mobilize additional funds for housing and ensure that those funds were available to more Jamaican families at rates below the traditional markets rates.

The trust was established following studies in the 1970s that 23,000 new housing units were required at a cost of 200 million Jamaican dollars (US$2.8 million) annually over a 10-year period in order to satisfy the then existing needs.

According to the trust’s website, annual contributions rose almost fourfold from J$34.20 million in 1976 to some J$130 million, 10 years later. It crossed the J$1 billion mark at the end of the 1995-96 fiscal year.

“This trust is a model which we have followed from the British system,” Davis, who was honoured with a special award at the Dubai workshop for his contributions to public sector reforms in Jamaica in the Dubai workshop, told IANS.

“Both India and Jamaica share the Commonwealth legacy and the NHT model, based on a British system, can well be a solution to India’s urban housing problems.”

JNNURM’s Mohanty said he took inputs from Davis on the model during the course of the workshop.

“It certainly looks interesting from India’s perspective. I have discussed the model in detail with Davis,” he said.

He added that housing models in some other countries were also being looked at.

“In Malaysia, for example, every developer has to reserve 30 percent of the land for poor by building one- or two-room apartments. In Brazil, there is a strong land tenure policy,” he said.

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