Who is entitled to social housing had been an issue during the discussion of the Housing Vision in the Island Council. Own Your Own Home Foundation (OYOHF) president Rolando Wilson explained that “Of course locals have priority, as we have to house our own people, if they don’t have a home.” But he also stated that everybody who is registered at the civil registry (Census office) and who has been working on the island for longer than five years also is entitled to a home.
Concerns had arisen that social housing may be extended to foreign students, a questionable line struck out of the Housing Vision, which had been seemingly intended to refer to returning Saba youths after their studies. Wilson explained the quite complex selection criteria involving a point system evaluation of each case based on social problems, medical condition, inappropriate accommodations in current family homes, the large number of family members living together and the insufficiency of space based on age-appropriate needs.
Wilson assured this is a professional evaluation process and while it is strictly confidential, the objectivity of the process is assured by the involvement of the head of the Public Health Department Dr. Gijs Koot, social worker Anastasia Simmons, a representative of the Youth and Family Centre, in addition to the OYOHF board. The evaluation board writes a report, justifying the decision taken on priority and type of housing.
Wilson also refuted the belief that those who applied first would be given priority, underlining that priority is given on assessed urgency, based on the point system. People who have submitted requests in the past will be re-evaluated and their situation and level of urgency monitored.
The process intends to stamp out any perceptions of favouritism.
Stakeholders, including the Health Care Foundation, are working with OYOHF on identifying social needs, such as the potential development of one or two homes as shelters for temporary social situations, mental health or drug addiction problems or family violence and abuse. Such community shelters are envisioned in Phase 2 of the project and will depend on financial support by the Ministries of Security and Justice and Social Affairs and Employment.
The long-term prospects also include a home adapted with ramps for the elderly and people with special needs. A potential Phase 3 of the same project may provide plots of land and infrastructure for young couples seeking to build their own homes. The feasibility of such prospects is to be a point on the agenda of the Island Council members who will be visiting Holland in May. Wilson, who is also an Island Council Member, lobbied that the delegation’s agenda includes a visit to the headquarters of Woon- Linie, the social housing corporation that assists OYOHF in implementing the Social Housing Vision.