New vision on financing social housing

POSTED: 05/31/11 12:06 PM

St. Maarten – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Housing, Physical Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) Theodore Heyliger has laid out his vision for how the country should move forward with financing social housing. He did so in remarks at the rafter wetting of 24 new 3 bedroom apartments at Hope Estate, which was jointly financed by USONA (4.4 million guilders), the Government of St. Maarten (1.2 million guilders) and the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (169, 000 guilders). The latter amount was for the supervision costs.
Speaking ahead of Heyliger, USONA’S Henry Dwarkasingh said, “As we say in Dutch de koek is op, meaning that there is no more money left for financing social housing. We hope that the Government of St. Maarten will now continue to build more social housing.”
Heyliger’s response was to point that the government is ready to show that “St. Maarten is ready to build and finance homes for our people.” He believes that the pension fund and the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten are good sources for financing the building of new homes.
“The pension fund, which has been transferred to St. Maarten should invest in housing and they should make this a priority. Also much like Aqualectra of Curacao was able to secure a bond issue at six percent, maybe we too should look at a housing bond of six percent,” Heyliger said.
Heyliger has also pledged that government will make land available to the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation soon so that more social homes can be built to deal with the social needs and as of “building a better community.” It is also a recognition of the massive need for housing that is reasonably priced as nearly 2, 000 people are on the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation’s waiting list.

Housing need
Monday’s rafter wetting was a stark reminder of the need for more housing on the island. This second phase in Hope Estate will give 24 of the 342 families on the waiting list, who need three bedroom apartments at a reasonable price, a place to live.
“The list is long and when we look at the private sector we see that rent is very high so we, my colleague Guy Gumbs and I, are already working with the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation to further develop housing. There is a vacant lot next to this location and we’re looking at that and we will seek creative financing to build more homes,” Head of New Projects at the Ministry of Housing, Physical Planning, Environment and Infrastructure Kurt Ruan said.

Project details
With the current project the government has avoided bundling and tried for a pleasant look. They have also created homes compliant with the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation’s rules that boys and girls should not share a bedroom. Part of government’s input is the construction of a playground. The financing for the project falls under the Socio-Economic Initiative (SEI).

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