Foga identified as possible area for relocationPOSTED: 04/18/13 2:30 PM
St. Maarten – The St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) is “racing against the clock” to find property to relocate residents of Colebay who have up until June 30 to occupy social homes there. Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for the Ministry of Vromi William Marlin told parliament yesterday that he has taken a decision to have some of the tenants relocated to a parcel of land in the vicinity of Foga. However this will not be without its challenges.
“It is government’s land that people have occupied over the years. Without any agreement with government, lease or title, some have built on it illegally over the years and we foresee a battle there,” Marlin said.
After 16 years of leasing property for the social homes, the SMHDF was given notice by the landowner that it needed to vacate the property by June 30. The families who will be affected by eviction notice have expressed concern about the unexpected news. On Friday, they visited parliament in an attempt to get an audience with Marlin after receiving a letter dated March 19 in which SMHDF requested that on or before April 30, they would have to remove from the property since the lease has expired.
Minister Marlin said yesterday that the housing foundation was clear in its letter and for those most in need there is no cause for alarm.
“The housing foundation in its letter said that those of you who meet the criteria to stay in one of the homes are guaranteed a house from the housing foundation. Those of you who do not meet the criteria I am giving you ample notice to go on the private market and try to rent a house,” the minister reiterated.
Social homes were assigned on an income level and composition of the family, however houses that were rented years ago for nuclear families now include extended families, since children grow up and form families as well. Instead of moving into another apartment, they continue to enjoy the benefits of social homes. The minister said that these kinds of situations became uncontrollable because the policies of the housing foundation were not being executed by the former directors of SMHDF.
The collective income of the family therefore increases and this means that they can no longer qualify for social housing or lower income homes, the minister said. He said these persons are exploiting the system and blocking others that are in need from occupying certain properties.
The policies governing the rental of social homes does not provide for a grown person to live in the same home with family along with another adult family.
These kinds of situations will be taken into account as the housing foundation continues to conduct interviews continue before certain families are relocated from Cole bay to areas like Belvedere, (and now Foga) Marlin told a Central Committee of Parliament last week.
“In the case of Cole bay, it is not government that has said you have to go. It is not housing foundation that has initiated the process to kick people out, it is the landlord with whom the housing foundation has had a lease agreement, which was extended for about 3 times, has finally said this is it, June 30 you, houses, everybody off my property.”
If tenants do not vacate the property, the SMHDF will then become liable and be taken to court whether the homes are occupied or unoccupied.
Marlin said that suggestions that tenants purchase the home still means that it would have to be relocated from the Cole bay property and relocation costs are estimated at 30 thousand guilders.
“I am not sure that the persons who are living in those homes some of whom have not paid rent in something like three years are capable of buying it, getting the financing to relocate it to property.”
Marlin said that this may be a solution but it would be cheaper for government if landowners were to propose purchasing the homes and relocating them for rental.