By Clyde I. van Putten
I have taken note of the announcement by the usurping puppet Government installed by the Dutch colonizer on Sint Eustatius, that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Dutch company Woonlinie and the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZK) to start a pilot project to renovate one (1!) existing home and build two (2!) new homes in Golden Rock.
The Woonlinie deal is yet another example of plans prepared by the democratically elected and legitimate Government of Sint Eustatius for the benefit of the people of Sint Eustatius being hijacked and changed to suit the agenda of the Dutch colonizers and their friends in the Netherlands. It is also another clear attempt at slowly but surely taking over and selling out the patrimony of the people of Sint Eustatius, all under the guise of helping them, and reorganizing and improving the functioning of local organizations.
The plan presented by Mr. Franco ignores the decision of the Island Council which was taken in the latter part of 2017 to sell thirty-five (35) of the total amount of homes in Golden Rock to the current tenants as a first phase. This decision was applauded even by the Chairman of the Island Council, Mr. Julian C.A. Woodley, at the time.
Some of the tenants in Golden Rock have been living in the homes for over 40 years, and the homes will be offered to them at affordable prices ranging from USD. 5,000 to USD. 25,000 each. By also construction additional homes in addition to selling the current ones, the Island Council aims to increase affordable local home ownership.
Unfortunately, before this took place, the Dutch colonizer unlawfully took over the Government, and appointed its colonial representatives Mr. Franco and Mr. Stegers to take over the SHF, just as it took over the local Government.
During 2016 and 2017, the sale of the thirty-five homes was deliberately boycotted bythe former colonial representative in Bonaire, who repeatedly held back the appointment of numerous nominated qualified Board members of the SHF for months without a valid reason.
The Dutch Government is well-known for its outright refusal towards its own Houses of Parliament to structurally raise the social and other benefits for people on the BES-islands. One therefore has to really wonder why a large company like Woonlinie and the Dutch Government have been so interested in executing this project on Sint Eustatius since 2011, and what the underlying strategy is. Certainly, it is not out of charity or love for the people of Sint Eustatius.
Based on the vague and limited plans and stringent conditions of yearly increasing rent presented so proudly by Mr. Franco, as well as the experiences with Woonlinie on Saba, the residents of Sint Eustatius who are in dire need of affordable housing and wish to own their own homes, will not benefit from this new development at all. It will only continue to keep them dependent in their own country by a foreign Government’s deals with foreign companies.
I hereby wish to again remind Mr. Franco that he and others who represent the colonial Government will be legally held accountable for any and all acts committed by them which are in violation of the UN-mandated right of Sint Eustatius and its people to a full measure of self-government.
This includes acts aimed at selling out the patrimony of the people of Sint Eustatius, andunlawfully interfering with the functioning of the local legitimate Government and organizations like the SHF.
Additionally, looking at the shameful track record of the Dutch Government in the Netherlands when it comes to the management of the Tax Department and the Ministry of Justice and Safety, the damage to the houses in Groningen, and the debacle surrounding the renovation of the house of Parliament, just to name few, the Dutch Government has no moral authority either to tell the people of Sint Eustatius how to run their affairs.
How can they pretend to improve the running of Sint Eustatius when they can’t properly manage their own affairs? In closing, I strongly urge Mr. Franco to uphold, respect, and carry out the decision of the legitimately and democratically elected Island Council regarding the selling of the homes in Golden Rock.
Clyde van Putten is leider van de Progressive Labour Party en voormalig lid van de Eilandsraad van Sint Eustatius.
De pilot waarbij Woonlinie is betrokken is bedoeld als opstapje naar de bouw en renovatie van in totaal 145 sociale woningen:
Statia’s Government Commissioner responsible for Housing, Marcolino Franco , has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Dutch Housing Association, Woonlinie together and the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations to start a pilot for the improvement of social housing on St. Eustatius. The Public Entity of St. Eustatius envisions providing quality and affordable social housing and increasing the existing social housing inventory in order to meet the demand.
The ultimate goal is to construct a minimum of five homes annually until there are about 50 new low income homes on St. Eustatius and until all 95 existing homes of St. Eustatius Housing Foundation (SHF) have been renovated. The Public Entity wants to achieve this goal by starting the first pilot to renovate an existing home and construct two new homes in Golden Rock. By starting a pilot between the Public Entity of St. Eustatius in collaboration with Statia Housing Foundation (SHF), the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) and Woonlinie, all parties are able to explore future possibilities for further cooperation. The current stock of social housing on St. Eustatius is in urgent need of repair and upgrading and there are too little affordable houses.
The St. Eustatius Housing Foundation nor the Public Entity are in the position to fund on the renovation and expansion their own, due to limited resources. A major advantage is that both Woonlinie and BZK will invest the monies in the construction of new social housing and in the renovation of existing homes. Without this agreement, this much needed investment would not have been possible. The big advantage for the current tenants is that the lease contracts will remain unchanged. Therefore, the tenants will experience improved living conditions for their rent.
The pilot entails the renovation of one dwelling and the construction of two new homes on a vacant lot in Golden Rock, which will serve for a short time as a model for the tenants to see firsthand what the newly renovated and constructed homes will look like. During the renovation and construction of the homes, Woonlinie will work with one main contractor and with local contractors as much as possible.
The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the Public Entity of St. Eustatius believe it is important to have a subsidy for those persons who cannot afford to cover the costs of rents due to a relatively low income. The Ministry is working together with the local government on a system that provides for housing benefits (subsidy) in the future. The local government is also working with the Ministry on a new rental price regulation. Part of this rental price regulation is the possibility of introducing a rental point system. In this context, Statistics Netherlands (CBS )has done a survey in April of this year. The results will be used for a system of rental price regulation.
The first results of this pilot project will be visible in the fourth quarter of 2019/or the first quarter of 2020. If the pilot is a success, all 95 social houses will be renovated and approximately 50 new houses will be built.