OSPP: Use acquired land from Over the Bank to build affordable homes

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PHILIPSBURG – Two parcels of recently acquired government land in the area of the Vineyard building are being proposed by the One St. Maarten People’s Party (OSPP) as ideal for constructing affordable homes for “Our people.”

On February 5, 2015 two parcels of land were acquired by Country St. Maarten in the area locally known as Over the Bank/Vineyard. These parcels of land are further described in Certificate of Admeasurements SXM UPQ 290/1984 in the amount of 30,205 m2 and Certificate of Admeasurements SXM UPQ 162/2014 in the amount of 80,500 m2.

Leader of the OSPP Lenny Priest expressed concerns that these parcels may go the path of land before, which ended up owned by members of government or given to persons who are already in possession of government land. The OSPP proposed that government “transfer a portion of these two parcels of land to the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) with the sole purpose of building affordable homes and apartment rentals for our people including the senior citizens.”

“Designate another section of this land to be used in the event that the owners of the properties that are now housing the emergency houses in the Keys, Sucker Garden, Dutch Quarter and Cole Bay are interested in swapping their land for a portion of this government land. If these private property owners agree to the swap, it would allow the government to sell those houses at the proposed sale price of US $10,000 or sell them to the tenants for one guilder as some of the tenants have indicated was mentioned to them by the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation,” Priest explained.

“It is a known fact that we must clean up and move the dump from the present location in Philipsburg. The most suitable location would be to establish a properly managed land fill in Cay Bay in the vicinity of NV GEBE. Land owners in that area can also be approached to swap their land for a portion of this government land hereby reducing any additional cash outflow from the government coffers,” he continued.

He said this way “we will be able to provide our people” with affordable low income homes and those residents living in the emergency homes on private land in the various districts would also have the opportunity to be part of the St. Maarten dream by owning their own home. “Last, but not least, a portion of the land can be used to swap with private land owners in the Cay Bay area to assist us in creating a modern day land fill to feed our planned waste-to-energy plant to be built next to NV GEBE in the very near future.”

Priest urged Minister of VROMI Angel Meyers to do the right thing in regard to the use of this reclaimed land. He opined that if a decision is made to implement the abovementioned proposals it would prevent the incoming government from chopping up this land and giving it out in long lease to their friends and supporters.

“It is rumored that this government is planning to give out this land in long lease to persons who may have applied for government land over the years and to political supporters. However, from past experience and just recently over a weekend, government land in the Belvedere Estate was sold to persons, who eventually were not able to meet their mortgage, and it is alleged that said land was bought by members of that same government. We know of cases in the past where government land was given to persons who were already in possession of government and private land. Then there were others who acquired land from the government for speculative purposes. A third group who acquired the government land because of the support that they lend to the government during the election. We would hate to see a repeat of the past especially knowing that there are so many young professionals, and others who are in dire need to have a home to call their own or apartment rentals at affordable prices especially for our senior citizens,” OSPP leader Priest stated in a letter to Minister Meyers.

According to Priest, housing is a priority, and government should provide opportunities for persons to own their homes at affordable prices. He recommends that the homes be built and sold for no more than US $175,000 for a three-bedroom house, and US $165,000 for a two-bedroom based on the fact that the government didn’t have to buy this land.

Young couples between the ages of 18 to 45 with Dutch nationality and registered on the island for more than one year would be exempt from paying the 4% transfer tax on their first property purchased, once the Parliament of St. Maarten adopts such an amendment to the existing tax laws. A special consideration should also be given to graduating students returning to St. Maarten, and those completing their studies on the island and to teachers, police officers, nurses and other civil servants.

“St. Maarten needs you become a teacher, police officer or nurse,” Priest said