Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SSHFC to roll out more homes for Gambians

By Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) has revealed plans to roll out more housing projects in Tujereng, Jabang and Brikama Jamisa.
Corporation has been providing affordable housing for thousands of Gambians through the numerous housing projects its housing finance fund is executing.
Some of its housing projects executed are the Bakoteh project, the Kanifing project and the Brusubi project.
The Bakoteh project provided 200 housing units of two and three bedroom houses that were allocated to Gambians under a mortgage arrangement of 25 years, though the period of the arrangement, which started in 1985, has elapsed.
Under the Kanifing project, 754 properties were also given under mortgage arrangement on a 25-year term.  All the three phases of the Brusubi project provided close to 3000 housing units, which were also allocated to Gambians.
“Currently we are working on housing projects in Tujereng, Jabang and in Brikama Jamisa,” the Corporation’s Estate Manager Alhagie Fatty, said.
The Tujereng, Jabang and Brikama projects, whose works are ongoing, will collectively provide about 3000 properties, says Mr Fatty.
Land banking
As part of its strategy to decentralize its operations to other parts of the country, which is in line with the government’s Vision 2010 blueprint, the Corporation has embarked on land banking across the length and breadth of the country.
“We are extending our tentacles to other parts of the country,” Mr Fatty said. “We have already banked 19 sites and within few months’ time will be adding two more sites to make it 21 sites across the country - in all the growth centres for that matter - in cognizance of the fact that land is a scarce resource; so it is ideal that we start banking it now for our future uses.
“We are doing all these to close the gap of housing as this is the only avenue that some people can have access to housing, especially those within the low-income bracket, because if they should go to the open market, prices are high there, with arrangement they cannot satisfy.  Most of the private real estate companies often ask for one-off payment or an installment payment, which many people cannot afford.  In our own case, you put a deposit of 20% of the cost and then the balance we allow you to pay over the period of time.”
The SSSHFC housing scheme has benefited a lot of Gambians, especially owing to the manner and conditions the property are mortgaged to them. “The housing projects have benefited a lot of Gambians because when you look at Kanifing and Bakoteh very closely, likewise all projects that we have executed, you will definitely find people there who obviously if they were allowed to compete in the open market would find it difficult to own property in this country,” Mr Fatty said.
It is not only property owners who benefit from the Corporation’s housing projects but also the satellite communities around those areas, because whenever the corporation does a project, it also provide essential amenities in the area, which benefit all those living there, and contribute to making the property appreciable.
“When we bring road there, we bring electricity there, and we bring water, to help the people in the area,” he added, saying: “Our success stories include Brusubi. Those of you who know Brusubi in those days will definitely know that it is the Social Security project scheme in Brusubi that has turned things around in that area, and the coastal road that was built by the government contributed a lot to enhancing those areas as well.”
He reiterated:  “The Brikama, Jabang and Tujereng projects will follow the same trend. The moment those projects are fully operational, people will derive lot of gains from those projects, not only the prospective property owners but also people who live around those areas, because they will have their properties upgraded in terms of value.”
Criteria for land allocation
SSHFC has criteria in place in allocating land cardinal among them is citizenship; that is being a Gambian national.
“In a nutshell the rest is based on need and affordability,” Mr Fatty said.  In assessing your need, we try to be sure that you don’t own a property within the Greater Banjul Area and also verify whether you are really in rental property and in congested family dwelling.  We also look at your family size and consider your living status in the Greater Banjul Area.
“On affordability, we make sure that you are in gainful employment. It does not necessary mean you have to be in the civil service, but you must be doing something from where you earn your living, whether in business or whatever, in order to be able to demonstrate that you can pay the down payment when we allocate you a property as well as to be able to pay the monthly mortgage fee and also develop the land.  This is because we don’t want to give you a land and it continues to lie fallow for the rest of your life. So obviously we make sure that you have the capability to develop it.  We determine that by checking whether you have access to bank loan, access to loan from your employer, and whether you have savings.  Then we look at your status; that is the total family income - your monthly salary, your wife’s monthly salary, whether you have kids who are earning and how much they earn at the end of the month; we look at all these to judge your affordability.”
Clarification on costing
The Corporation also considers the cost of providing amenities in an area in pricing the property they mortgage to interested citizens.
Factors mainly consider include bringing basic amenities, such as electricity, road, and portable water, to an estate, which cost the Corporation a lot.
“When we acquire the land we naturally do the infrastructure.  Normally these lands are virgin land and they are far from social amenities and other services.  We therefore make sure that we use our own resources to bring the services over there; that is water, electricity and road.  We make sure that we really facilitate the water distribution network, distribute electricity across the estate to the doorsteps of all the people there, and also the road network, we make sure that we do the road network to standard,” Mr Fatty said.
He continued:  “When you go to Brusubi you see a network of tarred road there; all these things cost money and also when there is an issue of compensation, we foot the bill these are also other expenditure we incur.
“So, at the end of the day, these are the expenditures that we look at closely and add a little margin to it, to be able to arrive at the price that we charge for a plot.  We add a margin there because this is an ongoing process; so without any margin we will not be able to continue and replicate what we are doing so that those who are on the queue can have property from the SSHFC as well.”


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