Two million dollars have been put aside by the Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s for the distribution of soft loans to needy citizens who wish to expand or build a new house.
Minister of Social Development, Delma Thomas made this disclosure at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Ministerial Complex.
Minister Thomas told reporters that the funds were budgeted for by Government and should be available until the end of the year.
“Persons can access up to $30,000 for rebuilding of houses, repair, addition, like you putting new rooms”, she said.
According to the senior government minister, the ministry is also trying to encourage homeowners to use the money to put in a bathroom and toilet inside the house in order to raise their standard of living.
“…We are encouraging families to get a soft loan and put bathroom and toilet instead of using outside bathroom and toilet and therefore, this two million dollars will assist in that regard,” she remarked.
The minister announced unlike some soft loan programmes in the past, the criteria for eligibility has been changed in order to ensure the loans are paid back.
“Interest will be charged at a rate of three percent per annum at the cost of the loan. Loans will be granted for expansion, refurbishment or construction”, she said.
“The applicant must provide security, land paper or insurance for the land, or a guarantor – you need somebody who would guarantee if you are unable to pay, they will have to pay back, you could own the land or a lease hold will also work”, she added.
Another criteria cited by Minister Thomas is that the applicants for a loan must be employed and have the ability to pay monthly contributions towards the repayment of the loans.
“Payments must be by deductions and you might ask me if the person is self employed they would have to get somebody who would agree to deduct and then pay them back,” she said.
She stated that these conditions became necessary in order to ensure that the loans are repaid.
In recent years, government has been duped by some recipients of soft loans especially fishermen and small homeowners.
According to Minister Thomas, the conditions call for successful applicants to start making payments three months after a loan is given to them.
“We will give a timeline so that you can build the houses or repair and then three months later you will ask them to repay. The repayment period will be over a five-year period”, she said.
“…Applicants are required to complete an application form and provide a picture ID. There will also be a legal contract to be signed and at present the Ministry of Legal Affairs is working on that contract,” she added.
The female government minister announced that loan officers would conduct site visits to determine validity of recipients.
The minister announced that as part of stricter and tighter controls being put in place, the hardware will be paid directly for material being purchased for a particular project.
This system, she said would also be extended to Contractors who get a supply of labour contract for a homeowner who will be given a loan under the project.
“… Sometimes you apply for a loan and you say you want to build a house and then you use the money for other things. So we have to make sure that you use the loan for what it was intended for – the monies will be paid directly to hardware and contractor,” she added
Minister Thomas gave assurances that applicants would have to wait no longer than two weeks to find out if they meet the criteria to tap into the soft loan programme.
“When the next budget in November is (delivered), we should be saying that we have 10 or 15 houses being built … so before November, we should see houses building,” she said.