PHILIPSBURG:--- On Friday Parliament's Committee of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) had an interactive and informative meeting with
the Rental Tribunal pertaining to its proposals for legislative amendments.
It became clear to an independent member of parliament MP Buncamper that the current legislation does not provide for much to be done or regulated by the Rental Tribunal as the current legislation was originally prepared by and for Curacao where the housing market differs from that of St. Maarten.
In a press release, MP Buncamper stated that the current legislation dictates that the Rental Tribunal may regulate a maximum allowed rent only for properties valued up to Naf 200.000,--
while not many buildings fall within this category. The Rental Tribunal was asked to explain how it will determine the rental fee that a landlord may demand and how much consideration would be made for the varying costs incurred by landlords based on their investments and maintenance costs.
According to the MP, this raised the question of whether the government should regulate the rental fees that landlords may demand. MP Buncamper warned that although most tenants are likely to welcome this suggestion, it must be taken into account that Sint Maarten has an open market economy where the market regulates its prices based on supply and demand. Presently it appears that most privately owned rental properties and dwellings are intended for middle-high earners. Most of the privately-owned properties are owned by the person who has had to borrow the funds to do so from a financial institution and have to cover the monthly payments, insurance, and maintenance from their pockets. Because of the demand for housing, the property owner is looking, not only for affordability but mainly for profitability.
Should the supply exceed the demand, the prices will automatically drop, as charging less for rent is better than no rent at all.
During the discussion, the Rental Tribunal noted that the bulk of the cases they handle are related to tenants in the lower-income bracket. Tenants in the lower-income bracket make up a significant part of the population. They are the ones demanding more affordable housing than the market is supplying, the MP’s release stated.
The Rental Tribunal suggests that the solution to this deficit in affordable housing is probably not in regulating market prices, but rather in regulating the construction and proper maintenance of social housing, while simultaneously increasing the average income of residents by stimulating people and businesses to grow and develop without too much red tape.
The composition of representatives holding seats in the Rental Tribunal too needs to be looked into, to ensure that those holding such positions are knowledgeable of the public and private aspect of our community, the release concluded.