PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Member of Parliament for the United People’s (UP Party) MP Omar Ottley says the public housing situation on St. Maarten is in urgent need of attention. He has also called on the Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure to provide urgent answers to Belvedere residents on when they can expect the much-needed repairs in their homes to begin.
Belvedere’s housing situation is, for MP Ottley, incredibly disheartening and worrisome given the Colorado State University’s prediction that this year’s Hurricane Season has a 65% chance of being above average.
The MP issued a press release on Tuesday in which he states that the concerns he expressed during a 2020 Parliamentary session with the Public Housing Foundation are still not addressed. “I asked about the living quality of the people in the Belvedere Homes and today substantial repairs has been done. Too many homes are still not repaired after Hurricane Irma, and people are still not getting any maintenance work done.”
He said, “It has taken too long for things to get done for the Belvedere residents. These people do not deserve to be treated in this way. They have been neglected for too long.”
He is also calling on Minister VROMI, the honorable Egbert Doran, to have the Public Housing Foundation finalize transferring ownership of the homes to the Belvedere Homes tenants. “Many politicians have promised these people that they will have an opportunity to own their homes, which was never done. I believe this is the most appropriate time to create such an opportunity for the residents in Belvedere.”
MP Ottley raised this concern as well during the Parliamentary meeting with the Housing Foundation. “The fact that I have not seen anything done in this regard concerns me very much. I know that we are in an economic crisis and not everyone can afford to pay for these homes. But the Government can create the opportunity for those who can afford to purchase the houses to do so. Those who cannot afford to buy the homes may still be able to do some work on their own to make it more livable, which should be considered.”
He suggested that repairs are deducted from the rent or that the Government comes up with a mutually beneficial alternative. “We can deduct repairs from the rent or find a mutually beneficial means of making our citizens comfortable and safe.”
Leading up to the Elections of 2020, MP Ottley campaigned on the need for good homes for residents. Despite his plea, several houses are still in disrepair since the 2017 hurricanes (Irma and Maria). Several residents have been displaced, and the island has experienced its highest demand for housing since 1995.
According to MP Ottley, it is not only in Belvedere that attention is needed but the entire Dutch Side of St. Maarten. “We have people still living with a tarp covering their roofs and some with only partial roofs, in many cases forcing large families to live in one room. This is not an ideal situation under any circumstance, and we have to do something about it now before it’s too late to act,” said MP Ottley.