Delinquent tenants owe the National Housing Corporation (NHC) approximately $11 million in arrears but a top official has served notice the state agency will be “pretty aggressive” in trying to collect its monies.
Project Coordinator Roger Ward acknowledged that high arrears have long plagued the organisation but said it cannot continue to allow people to occupy units and not pay their rents while it undertakes costly upgrades and repairs.
“We cannot allow that sum to continue to grow. We cannot allow persons to continue to ignore their responsibilities to the corporation.
We are undertaking some social surveys across our estates. We are going to be undertaking means-testing to determine those who can pay and those who blankly refuse to pay,” he disclosed during an interview with the Public Affairs Department released on YouTube Sunday evening.
A breakdown of the outstanding $11 million by Ward showed that at least half of the tenants in the NHC’s approximately 1 200 active rental accounts have not been paying up.
“Out of those 1 200 accounts, approximately 50 per cent of the persons are in arrears, so half. There are persons who, because of what they went through during COVID, have not recovered to the extent that they would have wanted to and we understand that. But yet there are those who even prior to COVID . . . have bluntly refused to pay the corporation. We cannot allow that to continue, we will not allow it to continue. So we are putting people on guard that they ought to pay their rents,” he said.
Ward acknowledged that the NHC may have to shoulder some blame for the high level of arrears, but he pointed out that it is a social agency and, over the years, had tried to work with tenants to get them to pay. However, he reiterated that if the corporation is to continue to provide low-income housing, then it must recoup the much-needed revenue.
“We cannot at this stage continue to allow it because the NHC will not be getting funding from central government in the future and, therefore, what was tolerated previously cannot now be tolerated and will not be tolerated. There are persons out there, as I said before, who we understand, because of their situations, might not be able to honour all of their obligations to the National Housing Corporation. But there are agencies within government that these people can go to where they can get assistance, and they ought to do so.
“But we will begin, as I said, by trying to identify those persons who are vulnerable and who genuinely cannot pay. The others who we deemed are in a position to pay will have to honour their commitments to the National Housing Corporation,” Ward said.
According to Ward, the National Housing Corporation has not raised rents for the last 34 years.
He added that while rates at recently built units are a little higher, they are still way below market rates.
The senior NHC official pointed to the units at the recent development at Alleyne’s Court, White Park Road, St Michael, which have all modern amenities, including natural gas and Internet. Rent there is $150 a week, less than $700 per month. (BT)