PHILIPSBURG:--- Plans for the construction of affordable housing units on a parcel of land at Welgelegen in Cay Hill, are now steps closer to being realized following a symbolic groundbreaking event, held on Friday afternoon.
Present for the occasion were finance minister Richard Gibson, VROMI minister Angel Meyers, APS board chairman Franklyn Richards, APS board member Guilliano Saturnilia, APS director Nadya van Putten, APS Manager Finance and Investments George Willems and APS project manager Kendra Arnell, along with architects David Morrison and John Baker and Ron Daal on behalf of the engineering consulting firm, ICE.
During the event, designs of the housing project were shown on site, before proceeding with the customary placing of shovels in the ground.
The project is being spearheaded by St. Maarten’s general pension fund, APS,
and entails the construction of some 61 townhouses and apartments for sale.
The pension fund is working towards offering the majority of the units below the maximum sales price of 250 thousand dollars (as stipulated in a long lease resolution granted by government to APS in late 2015), considering that the units are being offered under the umbrella of affordable housing.
The units would range from one to three bedrooms in size, measuring about 70 to 100 square meters per unit.
The Welgelegen housing project and other investments is the fund’s response to the urgent and ongoing need of seriously addressing reforms with which to make St. Maarten’s pension system more sustainable and affordable, says APS chairman of the board Franklyn Richards.
In recognizing the investment and housing challenges faced by many residents – in particular young professionals aged 25 and older, the fund thus embraced the opportunity to contribute towards providing opportunities, in working with the government of St. Maarten, which made the Welgelegen lot available, says the APS board chairman.
All this within the framework of APS investment policies aimed at securing pension payments now and in the future, he added.
According to Richards, “APS has also been exploring the possibilities of establishing a mortgage bank. The fund also sees this as an attractive opportunity for its clients, who wish to purchase one of these affordable homes, as a way of investing in Sint Maarten and its people over a long-term period”.
APS is thus looking towards benefitting younger members of the fund, as they continue to contribute towards the fund and not have to wait until retirement age to see benefits.
“To give everyone an equal opportunity, the pension fund insists that a transparent process be followed. This would have to be based on a clear selection criterion for those wishing to be considered for one of the new units. Details of those guidelines are presently being worked on”, says Kendra Arnell, APS senior advisor for research and development.
“To obtain a clearer picture of the housing requirements and wishes and related aspects, APS has embarked on a housing survey”, says Arnell.
This survey is geared towards assessing aspects such as the type of housing accommodations persons now have, whether they, for instance, own their own home or if they rent a home, she notes.
The APS official added that the survey additionally endeavors to get insight into what persons would want to see in their future housing accommodations.