PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent MP Christophe Emmanuel on Monday said the statement by the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) about raising the rent of its tenants feels like there is more to the story than the foundation is saying and questioned government’s role.
SMHDF General Director Helen Salomons informed the media that the World Bank (WB) Trust Fund Steering Committee has denied SMHDF’s request for US $45 million in funding. She said that the rejection is for reasons unknown. According to Salomons, the World Bank decision means that SMHDF can no longer finance and subsidize low rent rates and will not be able to construct affordable social housing for thousands of St. Maarten residents on the social housing waiting list.
MP Emmanuel said Salomon’s statement that she doesn’t know why the foundation was rejected was strange considering that Trust Fund projects are by consensus and only government’s non-support could lead to an outright rejection of such an important project. The Minister of VOMI and Housing would definitely know the reason and inform the Steering Committee of the Trust Fund accordingly.
“The question is, did the government and specifically the Minister of VROMI and Housing back the project proposal? And if government did not, what would the reason be for not supporting a US $45 million project to fix and construct homes for people,” MP Emmanuel said.
He continued: “It is no secret that the housing foundation is a complete operational mess and it is past time that the board and management are dismissed. I would not be surprised if government and the Trust Fund was not comfortable putting US $45 in the hands of that foundation. However, we are talking about the possibility of rent being raised on people in very hard times. So now the ball is in government’s court. What will government do now?”
The MP suggested that a new board and management be put in place and the proposals re-valuated, or place the funding with an established entity such as the St. Maarten Development Fund. “But first, government needs to explain why the funding was rejected.
The issue is too important to just accept a rejection and move on. What can be done to get a positive response to the US $45 million proposal? That is the only concern now,” the MP concluded.