Lake: Transparency into housing foundation operations a must

POSTED: 08/19/13 11:41 AM

St. Maarten – Minister of Vromi Maurice Lake met with the management and supervisory board members of the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) on August 8.

Minister Lake has advised the board to execute a quick scan operational audit into SMHDF.  “I also stated that the board should be to its full membership in alignment with the laws and articles of incorporation,” Lake said yesterday.

“At the moment there are two board positions and there are supposed to be five, and this does not bode well for an efficient, effective, and transparent operation under the principles of good corporate and public governance. I look forward to receiving hard copy reports of the presentations that were made.  I am not here to create any negative image of the SMHDF.  I am here to work together in the interests of public housing for the St. Maarten people.  With this in mind we can all make a difference,” Lake continued.

He added that he is busy with the Corporate Governance Council in getting the other board positions filled.

“The rumor mill on public housing has been working overtime.  I have not stopped the progress of public housing on St. Maarten. To the contrary, we are moving full speed forward, but I have a responsibility to the people of this country that everything is done in a transparent manner,” he said. “As a former board member I sent a lot of emails to the chairman about the open bidding process among other matters.  Now as minister I have requested an operational audit.  I would like to see an open bid which allows all local contractors to have the opportunity to participate and not just a selected few,” Lake continued.

Public housing and the creation of availability housing opportunities for St. Maarteners is a short, medium, and long term goal of the SMHDF and the minister.

The minister received an update based on an agenda established by the minister on the inventory and availability of homes and apartments from the management of SMHDF, insight into the number of persons listed as waiting for housing, the selection procedure, and policy for future tenants and home buyers. In addition, the minister and SMHDF discussed the area of Foga and specifically the mobile homes located there.

“In my meeting with the housing foundation, I requested them to present to me the selection criteria and procedure for qualifying tenants.  I would also like to know who is on the selection committee for the homes; what is the status of the management team and how many times they meet on a monthly basis.

“High priorities are the issues related to the Foga development whose tenants are in dire need of assistance.  I have asked the housing foundation to address immediately the maintenance and sewage challenges of the residents of Foga,” Lake went on.

“The quality of life issues must be addressed soonest and if you have a plan of action that puts people first, then the issues and concerns that impact the daily lives of people could be addressed immediately. My cabinet has also been receiving many complaints from tenants who have been having it hard with meeting their rent payments due to the economic situation.  More humanity should be given in such cases and a solution found to help them out in these difficult times.  Payment plan options are one route to take.  The main focus should also be to give homes to local St Maarteners who are in dire need,” Lake concluded.

Minister Lake and his cabinet are working diligently towards assisting the SMHDF with land for future development for young middle class professionals in addition to options for the mobile homes located in Cole Bay.

The minister encouraged transparency in execution of projects and communications to potential buyers who may be interested in purchasing homes currently or in future development. In this regard, the minister offered technical assistance from the Ministry of Vromi in connection with the open bidding process.

The minister will receive a presentation within the coming week by the management of SMHDF with respect to projected future housing development for the people of St Maarten that includes development of parcels of land in Upper Princess Quarter, Blue Mountain at Defiance, Windsor Road, senior citizens apartments, and a commercial development at Belvedere.

The vision of the management of SMHDF for financing and partnering with government and the ministry for continued development of affordable units for rental and purchase will be the focus of the presentation.

SMHDF was established in 1996 to manage the Belvedere housing complex and develop additional public housing. In 2012, the SMHDF developed and sold 18 homes at Belvedere and is completing six dwellings at Ebenezer, with additional residences slated to be started later this year.

The minister was accompanied by Marieke Van Zadelhoff, a member of his cabinet. Representing the SMHDF were the managing director, Henry Lynch, and Emilio Kalmera, the financial controller of the foundation. Also in attendance were supervisory board members of SMHDF, Jackie Arrindell and Keith Franca.

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