HOMEOWNERS' unpaid loans under the National Housing Scheme (NHS) have swelled within one year to more than $20 million.
During the seventh session of the State Legislative Council (LegCo) yesterday, Development Minister Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Suyoi Hj Osman urged delinquent borrowers under the NHS to be more responsible for the sake of the sustainability of the housing project.
Marzuke Hj Mohsin, director of the Housing Development Department under the Ministry of Development (MoD), in an interview with The Brunei Times on the sidelines of the LegCo session yesterday said delinquent loans under the NHS have hit past the $20 million mark, and that delinquent borrowers now number more than 2,100.
This means that in just one year, an additional $4 million in delinquent loans under the NHS was added to the scheme's liabilities.
A year ago, during the 2010 LegCo session, then Development Minister Pehin Orang Kaya Hamzah Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Abdullah Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar said: "The outstanding figure currently for housing (payments from NHS homeowners owed to the scheme)... is approximately $16 million and involves as many as 1,493 people."
That translated to each delinquent borrower owing the government an average $10,000 in home loan repayments, said Pehin Dato Hj Abdullah.
In urging home loan borrowers to be up to date with repayments, Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi (pic) said: "For the next generation and the sustainability of this scheme, current homeowners need to pay back their loans," said Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi.
Likewise, Marzuke said it is hoped that homeowners concerned would settle their obligations as soon as possible because the housing programme requires funds, just like any other project.
"We need money to spend to develop new housing areas. If there is a lot of debt, it will affect the funds required for housing, so that's why it's a requirement for them to re-pay that debt," he said.
Meanwhile, Belait Representative Hj Mohd Shafiee Ahmad said the current requirement of two guarantors for home financing under the NHS was difficult.
"Two citizens are required to be guarantors and these conditions are not easy, unless they are close relatives because people don't want to fall prey to (another person's failure to pay)," he said.
Hj Mohd Shafiee suggested that NHS applicants be allowed to use their Employees Trust Fund (TAP) or Supplemental Contributory Pension (SCP) savings as guarantor.
Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi responded saying that the ministry is currently considering whether it is necessary to have two guarantors.
"We are considering what the original reason of introducing (two guarantors) is as well. However, the suggestion to use TAP is a good one because of payment arrears. Should TAP be used (as a guarantor) it can be used to pay the houses and the debt issues relating to home loan repayment will not arise anymore," he said.