SMHDF Technical Director Telson Bell and Director Helen Salomons.
BELVEDERE--St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) said it made its presentation to Parliament on Wednesday, February 5, to address government’s “continued lack of support” and the foundation’s solvency, amongst other matters.
SMHDF was represented at the meeting by its Director Helen Salomons and Technical Director Telson Bell.
In Salomons’ response to approximately 50 questions posed by Members of Parliament (MPs) in a previous session, she highlighted what she called “government’s own shortcomings in meeting its legal obligations and responsibilities for social housing.”
“The government has delegated the executing tasks of social housing to SMHDF under a partnership agreement that ensures each side plays its part. As far as the SMHDF is concerned, we are fully in compliance with all our obligations under this agreement, despite numerous constraints and financial difficulties that can mostly be mitigated if government holds up to its side of the agreement,” said Salomon.
She said government is falling short on “making good on subsidies owed to SMHDF, … passing legislation to amend the law on social housing, supporting SMHDF to secure NAf. 45 million of World Bank funding for housing repairs, [and – Ed.] supporting SMHDF to secure funding for building new homes to reduce the waiting list on social housing for those in dire need.”
Salomons said government has been informed “time and again” about SMHDF’s financial shortfalls, which, she added, are due to its properties being subsidised by the foundation rather than government.
“There is also the matter of housing repairs being cut short because of money that should be spent on much-needed repairs having to go toward operational cost.
“Far from media reports that SMHDF refused an invitation to meet with Parliament last time around, nothing could be further from the truth. It is SMHDF that has been asking for meetings with every successive government that has been sworn into office, so that each time we can apprise government and Minsters of the situation and what they can do to support us. It is in our own best interest to speak with government and keep our case in the forefront,” she said.
Salomons said a private foundation such as SMHDF is not obliged to come to Parliament to answer questions.
“Protocol dictates that the foundation’s point of contact is with the Minister of VROMI [Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure], with whom the foundation holds scheduled bi-weekly meetings.
“According to the Constitution of St. Maarten, Parliament can invite a Minister to be present during a meeting to give certain information. As far as my knowledge of the law extends in this regard, there is no requirement for me – as a private citizen or in my capacity as director of a private entity such as SMHDF – to provide information to Parliament or give account to Parliament regarding my management activities relative to SMHDF or the manner in which SMHDF conducts its activities.
“As a good corporate citizen, I am, however, prepared to provide Parliament with a general presentation on the challenges that SMHDF is currently confronted with, as well with a presentation on the challenges SMHDF had to deal with in the past. …
“SMHDF is hopeful that with a new government in place and a Minister with the interest of social housing at heart, we can make a concerted effort to secure the financial stability of the foundation,” concluded Salomons.