Saba needs much more social housing than it currently has to offer said president of the Own Your Own Home Foundation (OYOHF) Rolando Wilson during an interview on the recently passed Housing Vision and developments in social housing in Saba. Showing the growing folder of social housing applications, which now approximates some 60 applicants, Wilson said the 26 rented social housing properties currently managed by OYOHF do need meet local needs. A study carried out by OYOHF with the assistance of Woonlinie Housing Corporation in The Netherlands found that Saba is in need of 50 additional homes. Woonlinie implements similar social housing projects in the centre of The Netherlands and is considered a dependable partner. With their assistance OYOHF hopes to secure funding that would allow the completion of the largest social housing complex at Under the Hill. It envisions some 29 lots on a property that has long been part of the foundation’s endowment. One big hurdle has already been passed with the financial assistance of 2.3 million euros made available through the ninth European Development Fund (EDF), which covered the costs of creating infrastructure, particularly terracing, large water cisterns and solid foundations and roads. The infrastructure is due to be finished by the end of the month, said Wilson. The project consists of 20 dwellings, with upstairs three-bedroom apartments and studios beneath or other combinations of apartments beneath. “We will start with the construction of the homes at the beginning of April,” said Wilson, reminding that “on December 28, 2011 a contract was signed between Saba Roads and Woonline.
“Phase two of the project will cover the less pressing housing demands on the cases being evaluated, and involves a continuation of the road uphill and the terracing of a new level. We are hoping to get the second phase done out of the 10th EDF,” said Wilson, showing the colour- coded stages of the development. He was optimistic about the awaited approval from Brussels on the 10th EDF application, submitted by the Island Government. He reiterated that without this financial aid, it would be unlikely to find another financier.
The OYOHF president expressed his gratitude for the government’s commitment to write the new EDF application in addressing the housing needs of the community. If the EDF funding is approved, Wilson believes construction of Phase-2 could start early next year.
Asked to clarify if tenants have a right to purchase the social houses, Wilson explained these properties would not be for sale. He expects tenants to live in such housing for a maximum of three to four years. “I don’t believe young couples are looking into living their whole lives in a low income housing,” he said, adding government may be involved in identifying land for such couples and giving them the opportunity to build their own home.
Regarding the financing of the construction of the homes said he had suggested approaching Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies for funding from the Social-Economic Initiative (SEI). Wilson said that in case the Dutch government would guarantee a loan to finance these homes, three institutes had already been approached for financing:
the Development Bank of the Netherlands Antilles of which Saba is a shareholder; Post Office Bank, and the Dutch Central Bank.” With such government guaranteed loans at a stable subvention rate OYOHF would be able to keep rents low, while expecting to pay back the loans within 20 to 35 years. An agreement signed by OYOHF, the Island Government and Woonlinie in 2009 is expected to be renegotiated mid-2012, outlining the proper steps in the financial supervision of such funding to secure a constant monitoring of the housing vision’s implementation.