Saba positive example of social housing cooperation

THE HAGUE–Saba’s efforts to address social housing were mentioned as a positive example by Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops in his response to the struggle with Bonaire’s social housing foundation FCB and its director Ben Oleana.

“In Saba, the public entity, the Own Your Own Home Foundation (OYOHF) and the Dutch housing corporation Woonlinie have signed a cooperation agreement late 2015, in which Woonlinie takes on an increasing role where it concerns the management and maintenance of the OYOHF homes,” Knops stated in a letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday.

Members of Parliament (MPs) Linda Voortman and Liesbeth van Tongeren of the green left party GroenLinks had asked the State Secretary to provide clarity in relation to angry remarks of FCB Director Oleana following Knops’ refusal to grant a Dutch government guarantee of US $36 million for the construction of 500 social homes.

The State Secretary used Saba as an example where the cooperation with a Dutch housing corporation can produce positive results. He explained that Woonlinie constructed 20 homes in Saba and that another 20 homes would be built in the coming years. “The cooperation is satisfactory to all parties. These developments secure the quality and quantity of social housing, and the associated maintenance, in the long term in Saba.”

Knops noted that Woonlinie was also active in St. Eustatius until late 2014. “This cooperation was ceased when the Executive Council indicated that it didn’t want to keep to earlier agreements.”

After the Dutch intervention in February this year and the appointment of National Government Commissioner Marcolino Franco, the public entity St. Eustatius is again seeking cooperation with a Dutch housing corporation to provide support in solving the social housing issue, the State Secretary said. Exploratory talks are currently taking place, he added.

Knops emphasised that the housing market was a local responsibility. The housing vision of St. Eustatius 2012-2015 showed that there were 80 applications on the list of persons who are looking for a home in the social segment. Data is lacking as to exactly how many new homes have to be constructed. The housing vision has not been updated.

Saba’s housing vision 2016-2020 showed that the construction of 20 new homes by Woonlinie will provide sufficient social housing for the long term. According to the 2011-2015 Bonaire housing vision, there is a need for some 500 additional social housing units. Since 2011, the Bonaire Housing Foundation FCB has realised 76 new social rental homes and 25 homes that were built for purchase.

Unlike Saba, the FCB in Bonaire, contrary to earlier agreements, does not want to work together with a Dutch housing corporation, noted the State Secretary. The foundation wants to build 500 new social homes without the financial assistance of the Dutch government.

According to Knops, the attitude of the FCB Director makes it hard to arrive at a joint constructive solution for the construction of new social housing in the short term. “I lament that very much,” he stated. Director Oleana responded this week by stating that the Dutch government was running up the cost of social housing by forcing the FCB to work with Dutch housing corporations.

The State Secretary further explained that in April 2017, the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament adopted a law to regulate the housing market in the Caribbean Netherlands. The objective was to create a solid, sustainable and affordable housing market of high quality in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.          

The law contained provisions for the introduction of a so-called rent points system, which has to be set through an island ordinance. This enabled a differentiation per island, which was a specific wish of St. Eustatius and Saba. However, to date, the necessary ordinances have not been adopted. As a result, the national law has not gone into effect.

Source: The Daily Herald