Fiji’s Housing Authority today made their submission to the Constitution Commission stressing the importance of providing affordable housing for all Fijians.
To that end, HA board chairperson, Mosese Tikoitoga proposed the Bill of Rights include the “Right to affordable housing for all its citizens”.
“It is the Housing Authority’s vision to set goals and determine strategies that would tangibly establish a better living standard for all Fijians by the year 2020, in line with the National Housing Policy that was launched last year,” Tikoitoga said.
Social and Commercial Obligation
The second point of submission focused on highlighting the conflict between the National Housing Act Section 16 (1) Caption 267 which stipulates that the Housing Authority may not make any surplus or profit in carrying out its objectives and function and The Public Enterprises Act which stipulates that the Housing Authority operate profitably, aim to achieve 10 percent return to shareholders and pay 50 percent of net profit as dividend.
According to the HA Chairperson, the Housing Authority was a unique organisation considering its position as the national housing agency and that the Act must be amended to reflect the business challenges that it faced in order actively address the need for cross subsidisation of low income housing and accessibility of financing options for first home buyers.
Considering the high cost of developing affordable land and housing packages particularly for low income earners, the Housing Authority submitted that to ensure affordability of future development projects, that the Fijian Government should direct all costs to be shared with the stakeholders carrying out their respective infrastructure particularly in relation to utility services such as water, roads, electricity and sewage.
This measure would allow the Housing Authority to encourage stronger up take of land and housing packages by low income earners as it would become more affordable.
It is anticipated with the Fijian Government sharing the cost of infrastructure, the cost of housing will significantly reduce by at least 30 percent.
Compulsory Salary Deduction
One of the key challenges that has faced the Housing Authority since inception in 1958 is in relation to managing our mortgage portfolio in light of the fact that most of our homeowners are cash payers in the middle to low income groups.
Currently our total arrears stand at $17.6 million to date or 14.95 percent of our total mortgage portfolio and our Non-Performing Loan’s currently are at 33.56 percent of our total mortgage portfolio.
Presently Housing Authority proposes that to ensure regular payment and to avoid any eviction, direct salary deductions for housing loans be made mandatory by all employers.
Land Acquisitions & Premiums
One of the important issues influencing housing supply for low income families is price and availability.
Therefore Housing Authority submitted that land acquisitions and developments must have an intervened price set by the Fijian Government so that these prices are not absorbed by the low income earners.
Ultimately high premiums together with high construction costs affect the high prices of housing packages for our citizens therefore the Housing Authority would like to maintain Section 15 of the current Act that allows it to acquire land and further allow the Fijian Government to give it land for housing projects that would see more affordable housing options being made available.
This would be in line with Malaysia in which land issues are the constitutional responsibility of the State Governments through the Land Acquisition Act (LAA) which has made it possible for sustained supply of land for housing development.
The Fijian Government may opt to give Housing Authority state land at minimal cost or introduce a pricing subsidy that can be passed on to the home owner.