The Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) has begun mobilizing fresh revenue to finance the construction of additional housing estates in the country. The Bank’s Management says it needs US$20 million and above in the next two years to finance housing estates which it has already earmarked, but gave no further details as to where new estates will be built.
According to LBDI, the objective of mobilizing fresh resources is to ensure that majority of Liberians own affordable homes. The president & chief executive officer (CEO) of LBDI, Mr. John B. S. Davies, III, told our correspondent in an exclusive interview last week at the bank’s 9th Street corporate office that the bank is prepared to fill in the void created as a result of the collapse of the defunct National Housing and Savings Bank (NHSB), which was looted during the civil war.
“We are going to attract more funding to continue this mortgage program. LBDI has gone incrementally with its mortgage scheme; we are hoping to increase this package to about US$20 million and more in the next two years,” Mr. Davies said.
He made the statements minutes after the official issuance of ownership certificates to National Housing Authority’s (NHA) Browerville Estate residents, under the auspices of the NHA and in collaboration with LBDI, on December 18, noting that mortgage financing is a flagship product by LBDI.
He said the flagship mortgage product by LBDI was initiated by the Bank in November, 2012 and was roll-out after approval by LBDI Board of Directors with an initial US$10 million placement by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).
More than 180 Liberians from all sector of the Liberian society have already benefited from the LBDI mortgage scheme, which is exclusively for Liberian citizens. About 80 percent of the US$10 million placement by CBL has been disbursed, according to the LBDI CEO.
“Only Liberian citizens can benefit from this mortgage product; out of the 80 percent disbursed, 26 percent of the beneficiaries are government employees,” said Mr. Davies.
However, he said only 25 percent of the mortgage scheme is outside of Monrovia, assuring the public that LBDI’s desire is to take the program outside of the capital, Monrovia.
Under its mortgage scheme, LBDI will finance estate housing, commercial mortgage arrangements, and individual potential house owners.
Under its commercial estate arrangement program, LBDI and NHA recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), in which LBDI took responsibility of 16 tenants for NHA’s Browerville Housing Estate.
The 16 beneficiaries were on December 18, 2014 issued a temporary certificates of ownership of the property and will ultimately take possession of their homes after settling with LBDI in the next seven to nine years.
LBDI’s mortgage product has a flat interest of not more than 8 per cent. The bank finances 70 percent of the total cost of individual and commercial housing, while the owner of the house is required to foot the balance 30 per cent.
Speaking last week Friday at the certification ceremony in the presence of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara M. Konneh and Central Bank Executive Governor Dr. J. Mills Jones, amongst others, Mr. Davies lauded the government of Liberia for approving and supporting the mortgage product.
“We [LBDI] also commend the CBL, whose Executive Governor has maintained that you must put your mouth where your money is,” said Mr. Davies in his welcome remarks.
For her part, President Sirleaf recalled how economic difficulties facing the country as a result of the civil war, as well as the financial constraints encountered with the Ebola outbreak, have made the housing sector virtually dormant over the years.
The Liberian leader disclosed that her government had already approached the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP), whose Director-General, Dewitt von Ballmoos, was also present at the program, to finance the housing project in Browerville and other parts of the country.
“LBDI CEO and others have decided to join the program and make it even better,” she said, expressing her delight at the small steps in the housing sector, but challenging the stakeholders to do more.
“We see a small step forward in the revitalization of the housing sector with the support of the CBL, the Minister of Finance and LBDI, but lots more need to be done,” she said.
According to President Sirleaf, investment in housing, in conventional economics, is not an investment but enhances the service sector, contributing to gross national product (GNP) through local content and employment generation, amongst others.
She thanked the 16 beneficiaries for taking the initiatives to own their individual homes, challenging them to take good care of the property.
“You need to take very good care of your homes and make a community for yourselves,” said the President. “Don’t wait for government before you clean your yard.”
Finance Minister Amara Konneh said owning a home is very important, but building a community is crucial, adding that the beneficiaries should make Browerville Estate their community.
”It has been a tough year to keep the economy up while at the same time fighting Ebola. But we need to invest in the housing sector,” said Minister Konneh.
For his part, CBL Executive Governor, J. Mills Jones, noted that low income housing creates economic opportunity, including employment for the population.
“We promised President Sirleaf that we [CBL] would support LBDI, ensuring that the bank made affordable homes available for our people,” adding “All we [CBL] can say is that this is just the beginning; we are standing by to do more.”
Present at the indoor ceremony at LBDI’s 9th Street Corporate was NHA Managing Director, Mr. Sam Wlue, NHA Board Chairman, Mr. George D. Harris, and LBDI Board member, Mr. Dewitt von Ballmoos, as well as LBDI General Manager, Ms. Gloria Y. Menjor, and LBDI Comptroller, Mrs. Clavenda Payman, amongst others.