MARVIN J Campbell, chief executive officer of West Indies Home Contractors (WIHCON), says that the company expects by year end to deliver a record number of affordable housing units in partnership with the Ministry of Housing and the National Housing Trust (NHT).
WIHCON is a 100 per cent-owned subsidiary of ICD that has been building homes in the affordable category for 55 years.
The company pioneered mass housing in Jamaica, and has built over 42, 000 housing solutions over this period, including the establishment of communities such as Mona and Portmore, along with the attendant public infrastructure.
WIHCON’s partnership with NHT reflects ongoing projects that have delivered housing solutions in the past and are projected to deliver additional housing over the next two years.
Projects delivered in 2021 include the Seascape Development in Harbour View, Kingston, which features 72 units of the Tropicana-style townhouses comprising two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms equipped with solar water heaters.
Among its amenities, the development includes a club house, children’s play area and comes with a fully equipped gym. This project is a joint venture with the Ministry of Housing and NHT.
The company indicates that it also continues to work with the NHT to deliver affordable housing solutions on the following projects: SilverSun Estates in Innswood, St Catherine. This involves construction of the Hampton unit which comprises two-bedrooms, one-bathroom stand-alone units.
Marvin disclosed, “We expect to deliver almost 300 units by the end of the year through the Guaranteed Purchase Programme (GPP).”
These projects are The Estuary Phase I & II, located in Montego Bay and a joint venture that will deliver 340 units of one-bedroom, one-bathroom stand-alone and duplex units.
As it relates to the Tropicana townhouse units at Seascape, these are now sold out and were sold for approximately $23 million. Units in The Estuary Phase II are being sold by NHT for $8.9 million for the duplex unit and $8.4 million for the standalone unit. For the SilverSun housing development, NHT is selling a unit for $14.7million to $15.4 million.
Campbell told the Jamaica Observer, “These developments are meant to be starter homes and allow for sufficient land space for homeowners to expand over time if they so desire.”
WIHCON also has a partnership with the Jamaica Defence Force to build accommodations to include dining and commercial kitchen facilities for their staff in Montego Bay, St James. This project is slated to be completed by the end of 2021.
Campbell, in sharing the challenges met by the company during the pandemic stated, “Like many organisations, WIHCON has been impacted by the pandemic. The first priority has been the safety of our staff, and every effort has been expended to ensure we assess and implement safety protocols to manage and minimise any negative impact.”
Although there were government exemptions for the construction industry, Campbell shared, “We observed that the lockdowns caused delays as the support services for our workers and operations were not always readily available, for example transportation for workers, food establishments, third-party suppliers, among other issues. In some cases, we would arrange for pickup for workers who do not drive so that they would not have to be exposed in the public transportation system.”
The company implemented sanitisation stations across sites and offices as well as deep-cleaning exercises. Where possible, work from home (admin staff) was facilitated, especially for the more vulnerable staff in the over-60 age group. The company has also sought to promote and facilitate vaccination for staff members and contractors.
One of the main impacts on the business was the increase in raw material prices caused by the global supply chain disruption.
Campbell said, “We saw increases in the price of lumber, for example, and with general increases in shipping of 400 per cent in some cases these price movements would also impact the final price of inputs.
“Prices also escalated due to shortage in supply and logistics challenges.
The company said operations have been supported with financing through local banking partners and, additionally, some project partnerships with NHT include financing models, which help.
The company notes that it is on track to exceed records set in the last three years. In 2019 The Estuary saw 350 units placed on the market and sold.
Units in the Estuary totalling 430 were sold in 2020 and 340 units were purchased in 2021. Seascape sold 72 units in 2021. SilverSun housing sold 337 units in 2020 and 265 in 2021.