Need to expand homeownership

Where praise is due, we must give. Civil servants, corporate employees and armed forces personnel can now avail of a subsidised home loan scheme from the National Pension and Provident Fund  (NPPF).

This should have come about a long time ago. Still, now that some section of our population can retire with comfort is good news. Our loyal nation builders, who serve dedicatedly for a long time in the government in different capacities, sometimes face tragic reality in the end. After 30 years of selfless service to the nation, they find themselves ill-prepared for the remaining days of their lives. While they work for the interest of the nation, they get little time to feather their own nest, so to speak. And when they face the last light of their years, they find themselves in tethers thin and worryingly spineless. Some have suffered sad eventualities.

There are about 52,000 fund members currently. That the fund will provide them the option to own a home anywhere in the country after they retire with subsidised loan with design and technical support is indeed laudable. This will allow fund members to prepare for life after retirement, which is vitally important.

Members of the fund, who own a plot of land in any part of the country with access to road, water and electricity, will vastly benefit from the scheme. Already more than 20 civil servants have availed of the loan from the fund.

There is no greater investment that a country can make than in housing. Citizens should have good and affordable housing. We can take a cue from Singapore, an island country that has more than 90 percent homeownership. What homeownership gives is social stability and builds a sense of nationhood. Planning and building public housing is more than just important.

If we can take loan in our personal pension-funds from the day we start earning money, homeownership in the country will increase, because even low-income groups can find ways to buy their own home.

The fund’s long-term vision is to develop a centre of excellence in homeownership, combining expertise in designing, financing, and building of affordable and comfortable homes. It is a good vision. Nothing can be achieved without a dream. What is doubly good about the fund’s dream is that it aims to achieve self-reliance by encouraging the use of local materials and local workers.

Homeownership should be an integral part of our model of housing. This will help us address inequality in our society effectively. What is important for the expansion of homeownership, though, is a solid housing policy that provides brick and mortar subsidies and tax breaks, among others.

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