~ Lease expired four years ago ~ PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) has informed tenants of the so-called emergency homes in Cole Bay that their mobile homes are to be removed on or before April 30 and tenants will be relocated.
The property on which the 26 homes are situated is not government property. Government leased the land from a private owner 17 years ago after Hurricane Luis displaced many families. SMHDF Managing Director Henry Lynch informed the tenants via letter dated March 19 that the lease for the property had expired and would not be extended.
One of the tenants, speaking to The Daily Herald on Thursday night, said it was unconscionable that SMHDF would give tenants one month to vacate homes they had occupied for 17 years. He said the March 19 letter was the first communication received from SMHDF about the removal of the homes.
He added that the homes had been transformed into permanent living spaces for families with surrounding infrastructure, including Internet lines, etc., underground and paved roads. Moreover, the tenant asked where exactly the tenants are supposed to go in one month’s time.
However, Lynch said the April 30 date was not an ultimate deadline that would see tenants on the street. He outlined in the letter that relocation would be executed based on the unit for which the household qualified. Empty units in Hope Estate and Belvedere have been targeted for the relocation.
The landowners have been requesting for more than two years that SMHDF vacate the property, he said.
“The notification came via the lawyer and we have ultimately until June 30, 2013, to remove the homes and restore the property. We have for almost two years worked together with past and present Ministries trying to find property to relocate the homes, but to no avail. Therefore, we have started the process of doing internal mutations, which is by definition relocating the tenants to vacant homes that they qualify for in our other housing communities,” Lynch explained.
He added that moving the homes was a two-phase process, with the relocation of the tenants first, followed by removal of the homes from the private land. However, suitable land has not been yet identified.
Children/relatives over age 18 who are employed and reside in the Cole Bay dwellings have been advised to apply separately for housing “as they have now reached the adult age.”
The tenants have been requested to update all their information for SMHDF to assist them in acquiring new residences. To facilitate this process, a tenant has to submit a recent job letter, last two pay slips, copy of identification, a Kadaster letter stating that he or she owns no property and a detailed registration form.
“It is also good to note that several of our tenants have purchased homes through our ‘home for sale programme’ and as result we have a few vacant homes that will be made available to the tenants of Cole Bay.
“Based on the limited time allotted to vacate the property we have no other alternative. We have gone as far as to explore purchasing one or more buildings to move tenants into. However, you can imagine that the current NAf. 387 rent per month for a two-bedroom (levied some 16 years ago) would not be sufficient to cover the mortgage for the acquisition.
“We can assure you that the situation is being handled in a structural manner and that none of the families that qualify will become homeless,” he concluded. – THEDAILYHERALD