Prime Minister Andrew Holness
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced that the National Housing Trust (NHT) has received applications for all 86 units in the Ruthven Towers apartment complex in New Kingston, St. Andrew.
The NHT had faced backlash after it announced the one and two bedroom units were being sold starting from $27.7 million to $37.7 million.
Many argued that the average NHT contributor would not be able to afford the units.
Speaking on Wednesday during the handing over ceremony for another NHT project, Twickenham Glades in St. Catherine, Mr. Holness acknowledged that the Ruthven units are expensive, but said there was a demand for them.
"What we have done in doing that property is to ensure that some of our contributors are able to benefit," he said, noting that the 86 successful applicants will be announced shortly.
Mr. Holness also argued that the NHT's provision of housing in New Kingston ensures that certain communities are not reserved for the rich.
"The government has an overriding duty that all these developments that are taking place in our capital city and in our prime locations, that the gentrification does not leave out the average person. We don't want to be building communities and it just becomes exclusive, only rich can afford it. So, we also have that duty and when we are looking at how we are redeveloping our city, we have to make sure that we leave options in there for people to access affordable housing."
Despite that view, the Prime Minister has instructed the NHT to re-evaluate proceeding with phase two of the Ruthven Towers project.
"I've asked them to take a second look at it to see whether or not they should proceed based upon the construction cost and the cost of the land and the public distraction," he said, adding that the government cannot ignore the concerns of the public and must ensure confidence in the NHT is not eroded.
The NHT has stated that it plans to build three more towers in phase two as well as amenities, such as a swimming pool, tennis court and meeting rooms by 2024.
However, Mr. Holness said serious thought will have to be put into whether the NHT should continue building in that segment of the market.
"It's going to be a difficult decision as to whether or not we should not participate at all, except in the provision of mortgage, and what that will do to those persons who would want to be able to access. But because it is going to be in our open market, the competition on price might leave them out," he suggested.