Long-awaited housing project

Editorial, Normal

The National, Thursday December 17th, 2015

IT is big and it is ambitious.  And it is something many a suffering public servant has been long waiting for.

The construction of houses to benefit mostly public servants under the National Housing Corporations’ social housing development programme is finally going to materialise.  

To build 40,000 affordable good quality durable homes will be a lot of work involving millions of kina so careful planning needed time and so there was a delay of a couple of years from when the concept was first announced, we are told.   

The signing of a memorandum of understanding by the Minister for State Investment and Public Enterprise Ben Micah and Minister for Housing and Urbanisation Paul Isikel on Tuesday now means that all is clear for the social housing programme to proceed.

Because of the scale of the programme, it would be delivered in stages or “grid by grid,” Isikel said.

Five building companies have been contracted to build the first 5000 houses at Durham Farm, National Research Institute and Gerehu Stage 7A in the National Capital District. This will be the first grid.

While public servants are the main targeted beneficiaries, other Papua New Guineas would also be part of this housing programme. 

Cabinet has approved that the land and housing pricing package threshold to be between K250,000 and K450,000 for the buyer under the K200 million mortgage facility with Bank South Pacific. Road works and utilities such as water, electricity and telecommunication lines will be laid by the state-owned public utility companies Eda Ranu, PNG Power Limited and Telikom PNG.  

Having the earthworks done and all utility service lines in place, the actual construction of the houses by 

private companies will proceed.  

It has been announced also that the import levy and storage fees for housing materials will be wavered so the price of homes should be lowered further to make them affordable to most public servants or others who intend to invest in homes.

Apart from a public service housing give-away scheme some years ago under which tenants of National Housing Corporation properties were given titles to them, this is the single biggest undertaking by any government since Independence to provide housing at an affordable cost to citizens and specifically for deserving public servants who would otherwise not afford this basic necessity.

The issue of housing shortage has not been addressed for a long time in such a significant way. 

The Government is seen be going all out within its powers to make that housing programme materialise.  Land has been allocated and titles will be given individual home buyers; roads, utilities and other necessary amenities will be established. 

The Government would expect contractors to deliver their part of the deal by building affordable, comfortable and durable homes, as Minister Micah said. 

Owing to past failure of similar housing schemes in the past, although smaller in scale, there is bound to be some scepticism especially given that a large amount of public money would have been spent.

Naturally, the Government and the public would expect the five contractors selected to construct the initial 5000 houses and any others that would join the housing programme in future, to deliver to the highest possible standards.  

For the average civil servant or citizen, purchasing a home would be the most important investment in his or her life and he or she may be servicing a home loan for the rest of their working life.

Given the personal sacrifices to be made and the value attached to a home, the investor would obviously not want to settle for second best.  

The quality of homes to be delivered under this social housing programme therefore ought to be something home buyers would be proud of and be happy to leave to posterity.

As Micah said public servants living in squatter settlements or renting single rooms can now have the dignity and right of ownership to a piece of land and a house. 

The Government has demonstrated a political will to make that a possibility and also provided funding for citizens to borrow to purchase homes. 

Because of the flexible loan repayment terms involved, this social housing programme may be a great opportunity in a long while for those who have long wanted to purchase a home at a price within their reach.