Land awarded for social housing is already in lease, MP Peterson says

      Land awarded for social housing is  already in lease, MP Peterson says

Minister of VROMI Egbert Doran and Helen Salomons-Brown, director of St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation, award land allegedly already leased to the company High Tech Development NV since 2012.

PHILIPSBURG--Government recently awarded land in Hope Estate for social housing development while the specific lot allegedly was already issued in long lease since 2012 to another party. This was brought forward by Party for Progress (PFP) Member of Parliament (MP) Raeyhon Peterson on Wednesday during the 2023 budget debate in Parliament.

The land awarded was identified as meetbrief 095/2011 in a press release issued by Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Egbert Doran on Wednesday. MP Peterson said that, as former acting Head of Domain Affairs he specifically remembers this meetbrief that was issued in long lease on July 20, 2012, by the then Minister of VROMI from the NA faction, to High Tech Development NV, that is run by sir Achken Roberto Richardson.

“The issue is, and this is I remember specifically, the decree he received from the then-Minister of the NA faction, was the only decree that I saw in my years in Domain, with no expiry date,” said MP Peterson. “Yes, that decree was issued, and the expiry date was specifically removed by the then Minister, I know this because I went into the history of this document back then, to figure out why only this decree has no expiry date. So now, this parcel of land that has already been issued in long lease, is being issued once again for social housing. How can the same parcel of land be issued twice?”

The press release sent out by Minister Doran on Wednesday stated that in August 2022, the Council of Ministers approved St. Maarten’s Spatial Development Strategy 2030, “which considers that adequate and affordable housing for the citizens of St. Maarten is regarded as a cardinal requirement to sustain a good quality of life.”

The Minister informed that the Steering Committee of the St. Maarten Recovery and Resilience Trust Fund earmarked funding for this project which was subject to revision of the existing performance agreement and World Bank’s appraisal in December 2021 and as reconfirmed on March 7, 2022. “As part of the preparation for this project, the Government agreed to issue land in long lease at Hope Estate (meetbrief 095/2011) to SMHDF for the construction of social housing last November,” it was stated in the press release.

According to Minister Doran, the Government of St. Maarten moved one step closer to the realization of additional affordable housing by signing an agreement with the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation on Friday, March 17, 2023. “This agreement makes it possible for SMHDF to receive land in Hope Estate that was earmarked by the Government for social housing and paves the way for accessing Trust Fund Support,” Doran stated. “This MoU was preceded by the existing performance agreement as signed on 23 July, 1997, between the two parties.”

Minister Doran said that he looks forward to “sitting with the world Bank and the Steering Committee in the coming days to finalize the funding needed to start this project.”

Social housing is good, MP Peterson said, “We need that in St. Maarten. Hope Estate does seem like an adequate place for it. In light of this, I want to ask the Minister if High Tech Development NV was approached by the Ministry of VROMI concerning their decree with no expiry date for issuance of this same parcel of land, prior to this public announcement concerning the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation being made.”

 Minister Doran is not present during the 2023 Budget debate in Parliament as he is attending the Water Congress of the United Nations in New York from March 22-24.

The Daily Herald

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