SMHDF: 40 per cent of tenants not paying rent | THE DAILY HERALD

St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation provides social housing in St. Maarten; for instance, in Belvedere.

BELVEDERE–In the wake of the Court of First Instance ordering the eviction of eighteen non-compliant tenants, St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) has said that the situation is much worse, with about forty per cent of its tenants not paying their rent. SMHDF says some of these tenants have not paid rent in more than three years.

“We stand by our goal to provide affordable social housing for persons in need, not for persons who insist on abusing the system for their own needs,” said SMHDF Director Helen Salomons, adding that there are now about 14,000 persons on SMHDF’s waiting list. This has doubled since 2017. “It is not fair on persons on our waiting list and it is not fair on SMHDF to have persons living rent-free with a waiting list so high,” she said.

According to her, the foundation needs a steady income flow to run the organisation, pay its debts and offer housing to those in need. “Much of what we have achieved over the years has been with our own commercial funds, including having a mortgage to pay at a commercial bank and at commercial bank rates. If we pay late or default, we have to pay the penalties – not the tenant – putting us into a very difficult financial position. … If we try to enforce collections from tenants, those same tenants accuse us of being heartless,” she said.SMHDF says it does not want to evict its tenants, but was forced to do so because of its deep financial problems, which were widened because of the COVID-19 crisis.“Even at this late stage, SMHDF tenants due to be evicted and others with outstanding amounts can visit the foundation building in Belvedere to discuss their individual situation with SMHDF officials. There are payment arrangements that can be made, and some tenants may even be eligible for a government subsidy. They will not know unless they come in and talk to us,” said Salomons.

She said the case against the 18 defaulting tenants started more than three years ago and was not because of the pandemic. SMHDF said it has been “especially firm” about its case because its rent is low, but many tenants still refuse to pay. “We are sincere in our message to our tenants that we are in the business of providing social housing for those in the St. Maarten community who do not have, or cannot afford, the type of rents charged by private landlords.

“We expect an outcry following the judge’s decision in favour of SMHDF. However, we also have bills to pay ourselves and we have a duty to other persons in need of SMHDF housing. “In the end we were left with no choice. We have made many appeals to the tenants. Many just ignored us and sadly it has come to this,” said Salomons.

Source: The Daily Herald