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Editors' Forum | 7,000 titles awaiting pickup - But HAJ says, pay up and collect

Published:Wednesday | February 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Gary Howell
Garfield Sewell

The Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) has in its possession more than 7,000 titles for housing solutions for which the mortgages have long matured, while others remain locked in its vault awaiting outstanding closing payments of $20,000 or less, accumulated over 18 years.

"The bottom line is, a number of these mortgages have an outstanding amount of less than $20,000 and persons refuse to pay it. These are basically fully mature schemes in terms of the mortgage life, because they have been basically 25 years and more," Garfield Sewell, senior manager, finance and information disclosed yesterday.

"Persons just need to come in and address the outstanding issues, legal and otherwise. People need to come in and pay to get their titles," he appealed during a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the company's downtown Kingston head office.

While cognisant of the financial difficulties some persons may have had over the years, Sewell, as well as managing director Gary Howell, are convinced that many delinquent homeowners fell into arrears mainly because they didn't have their priorities right.

"When you look at some of these communities, it is sad, and when I say sad, I remember a project like Waterford in Portmore, St Catherine. We have finally closed it out, but I think the mortgage was $95 a month. Think about that, even in the 1990s, and persons still resist paying $95 per month. ... Now you can't get a mortgage for less than so much thousand dollars, and these persons have that facility and are that privileged, and they were not pushing to close out the mortgage," Howell told the forum.

The HAJ is to embark on an islandwide public-awareness campaign to get property owners to understand the financial and other forms of empowerment that can flow from having their housing and land titles and other such collateral.

It is also working aggressively in the schemes of Mammee Bay and Belle Air in St Ann, as well as Boscobel View, St Mary, to ensure that there is no recurrence of this problem.

"We are working in these three communities to get persons to pay up so we can release their titles to them," Howell declared.

Whitehall Phase 3 in Negril, Westmoreland is another scheme on the HAJ radar, with more than 600 housing units set for handover in March, following the installation of electricity and water-supply systems.