BELVEDERE–The St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) Supervisory Board of Directors and management announced on Sunday that they embarked on a progressive repair and rehabilitation programme for their housing community in December 2016.
The foundation said this programme is the first of its kind since the foundation came into existence in 1996. The first repairs underway are to the roofs in Block 15, 16 and 17, consisting of a total 19 row houses.
The remaining blocks to be addressed for the remainder of this year are 14, 19 and 20, consisting of a total of 16 apartment units. For those homes where roofs cannot be replaced this year, a coating will be placed to stop the leakage. The replacement of these roofs is part of the upgrading programme that will be executed in phases over the coming years, according to the statement from management.
In addition to the roof repairs, SMHDF understands the need to execute other repairs within its projects. Therefore, repairs such as kitchen cabinets, the replacement and repairing of windows and doors are also being executed.
The total rehabilitation of some areas, including the esthetical parts, is the continuation of the long-awaited exterior paint programme. Tenants who wish to paint the exterior of their homes will be offered the opportunity to do so with supervision provided by SMHDF as part of the community jollification.
Since the Belvedere homes were delivered to SMHDF in 1999, several reports have been drafted on the technical conditions of the units. The first report was drafted by Independent Consulting Engineers N.V. as early as November 20, 2000.
Thereafter, in 2008, a technical maintenance audit initiated by SMHDF in collaboration with FKP, Curaçao, included the mobile homes as well as Belvedere, a total of 677 units. The quantified amount required for this investment was NAf. 6,681,825.
After 18 years and careful operational and financial restructuring, the Supervisory Board and management are said to be delighted to start this repair and rehabilitation programme.
“This programme executed on priority whereby we will invest a total sum valued at NAf. 1,000,000 in 2017 as per approved 2017 budget,” said management. “Anything that is not completed during this fiscal year will continue into the subsequent year as part of our continued repair and rehabilitation programme. Residents can rest assured that all pending technical issues are being looked into and will be addressed accordingly.
“The SMHDF does not have the financial means to address all the 677 repairs as registered since 2000 in one fiscal year. For this reason, the SMHDF approached Government in 2016 to transfer the ownership of funds presently in escrow account for Hope Estate 1 and 2 to the SMHDF for the repair and rehabilitation, and new developments.”
SMHDF also appeals to Government to start payment of the rental allowance for the 24 Red Cross Senior homes, which has not been paid since 2002. In addition, Government should honour its obligation towards the 318 social homes which are eligible for rental allowance and the subsequent indexation, which has not been honoured since 2012.
It stands to reason that these improvements will create jobs in the construction field for youngsters in the community. Even more important, long after the homes have been completed, the ripple effect from residents of these upgraded rental units can support many in a wide array of industries such as construction and hardware.
These employment efforts are on par with building public communities in particular for the housing communities and St. Maarten in general in addition to the progressive repair and upgrading programme.
At present, the SMHDF team is negotiating with investors to embark on the expansion of the existing affordable homes programme to offer a wider range of ways of helping people into home ownership and to provide support for those who need affordable housing rental units through cross-subsidisation of its core product.
To reach this milestone, the following actions were taken over the past two years to alleviate SMHDF’s deteriorating financial position and tenants’ technical complaints.
The foundation has been able to clear its financial reporting backlog related to 2012-2013, 2014-2015; draft operational budgets 2015, 2016, 2017; and draft operational procedures across the board in the restructuring of the organisation. The foundation also complied with the Corporate Governance code per 2015, supervisory board annual reporting 2015, Volkshuisvestingsverslag (Government housing) report 2015, initiated monthly reporting and presented a strategic business plan 2017-2021.
SMHDF envisions the initiatives as embarked on over the past two years to not just provide more homes, but to equally support individuals and communities through a public/ private partnerships programme so that the issues of entrenched disadvantages are tackled.
The Foundation remains cognizant of the fact that many people living with disadvantages – people who are in social housing now or on the long waiting list – can progress towards independence with the right support.
“We acknowledge that some, especially elderly people, can lead fulfilling lives in stable and secure social housing. By expanding the variety of tenures available, which will include affordable rent, and sales and lease-to-own, the programme will help meet the housing needs of a wider range of people in different circumstances and at different stages of their lives,” it said.
The Lease-to-Own project will offer rent prices set at or below 80 per cent of the local market rent for a set time, giving tenants the opportunity to save for a deposit and then the option to buy their current home.
This includes opening the housing market to the younger generation and providing decent, affordable homes for rent for those who cannot afford to buy. This programme will help SMHDF to work with both private landowners and developers who are new to this area of the housing market, to increase the availability of affordable homes.
Following the expansion and increased flexibility of the affordable homes programme, future investment will support the delivery of rent-to-buy homes, helping first-time buyers save for a deposit to buy their home whilst they rent at discounted rates; more affordable rental homes and recognising that many of those who rent in the private rental sector need support to be able to afford market rents
These schemes are primarily focused on households with lower-than-average incomes and those who tend to struggle to save. They will also benefit those families who are just about managing.
Rent-to-buy has been introduced and expanded as part of SMHDF’s Affordable Homes Programme 2017–2021, offering aspiring tenants on low to middle income a route to home ownership.
“All for our Green Land Cotton Tree Villas Estate, buyers who have successfully been allocated funding will allow the SMHDF to start the bidding round for the Allamanda Estates in Foga within short.
“These allocations will enable providers to get on with building the affordable housing that is needed in St Maarten and will be a boost to overall supply and upkeep.
“As described, it is obvious that serious actions are required in order to get to a well-balanced and financially sound SMHDF that is able to meet the needs of all its 769 tenants and 1,561 applicants waiting to obtain affordable housing.
“The current Supervisory Board of Directors along with management are committed and more than willing and able to do whatever is required to bring the SMHDF to the next level in a responsible manner,” concluded the statement from the Housing Foundation on Sunday.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/64297-smhdf-announces-repair-programme-future-plans