The records of the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) showed that 7,829 individuals who benefitted from housing solutions had mortgage arrears totaling $530,949,663.55 as at December 2015. Of this amount, $519,910,067.58 represented arrears for solutions developed by the Ministry, while $11,828,084.43 represented solutions developed by the HAJ for properties administered by the Ministry.
In addition, the Ministry’s failure to timely finalize sales agreements for properties resulted in the Fund having $115,319,222.14 in escrow for protracted periods. The AG was unable to determine how long these deposits were held in escrow as the Mortgage Software used by the Ministry was unable to generate aged reports for the escrow accounts or the HAJ arrears. The delays may result in misuse of the funds.
Permanent Secretary (current): Audrey Sewell
Permanent Secretary (at breach):
Breach Category: Resource Management
Breach Type: Poor Arrears Management
Year Reported: 2016
Last Assessed: May 1, 2016
The Ministry’s arrears portfolio is largely influenced by two main factors – (1) Legacy issues (2) Large percentage of Brownfield developments that are undertaken.
Legacy issues: These issues stem from the approach that was taken towards the provision of housing in the past, especially during the early 1990s when there was significant construction activities by the Ministry with responsibility for Housing, where the emphasis was placed on providing persons with shelter in the shortest possible time. This was influenced by the large housing deficit and the significant number of persons, particularly in the urban areas, who lived in substandard housing. This approach has led to issues such as, houses being provided to some persons who were unable to pay, as well as gaps in the management of the implementation process.
Brownfield developments: Consequent on the role that the government plays in the housing sector, a large number of Brownfield developments (regularization of squatter communities and the settlements acquired under the Local Improvements Community Amenities Act [LICA]) were done. Persons living on these properties have been delinquent in their payments to the Ministry. Also, the application of interest on outstanding balances has contributed to the ballooning of the arrears.
The Ministry has increased compliance activities to include: (1) sustained targeting of communities with chronic delinquency issues; (2) increase in the frequency of serving delinquency and demand notices; (3) the use of various electronic and print media to locate purchasers who no longer reside on properties.
Additionally, the Ministry has embarked on community development activities and the engagement of entities such as the Social Development Commission (SDC) to assist in changing the mindset of persons who are delinquent in meeting their obligations; and by enlisting the support of political representatives to encourage persons to pay by inviting them to address community meetings.
The Ministry has also streamlined the divestment process to include the establishment of the Land Divestment Committee. This committee manages the process of selection to ensure that purchases recommended for approval, have the ability to pay for the solutions. Also, the practice of selling properties for which there is no certificate of title has been discontinued. These activities are ongoing, with a view to reducing the balances over time and minimizing the risk of future delinquency.
No Calls To Action are currently associated with this breach.
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