High rents leave tenants in Saba with few options

SABA—The lack of affordable housing remains a major chal­lenge for persons renting a house in Saba. “There is no informa­tion whatsoever available from the government about rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, so it’s kind of like the ‘wild west’,” said Rhiannon Jorna.

“There is no rental commission in Saba and no regulation yet which regulates maximum rents and maximum rent increases, the National Ombudsman stated in 2016.

“The government should charge people with empty houses/second property to deal with vacancy in housing. Also, … start a govern­ment-regulated place where peo­ple can find information about housing, costs, allowances, rights and regulations for both renters and tenants,” Jorna told Carib­bean Network English-language news site.

Saba has more than 1,100 homes. Nearly 96 per cent of these are privately owned and four per cent are owned by social housing corporations.

When the cost of living increases, housing becomes less affordable, despite the increase in income over the years.

Jorna explained, “We looked at a home that was US $2,200 per month, which was worth the mon­ey, but we can’t afford that. Another house we looked at was $1,200. … However, it was located right above the dump, we had to share the washing machine, and there was no place for the kids to go outside safely un­supervised.

“The problem is that peo­ple tend to settle for what they can afford here. They don’t speak up, because they don’t know better, for fear of upsetting others, for fear of repercussions, or because they’ll leave in two years again anyway.”

The cost of living in Saba has steadily increased, whereas salaries do not match the increase. And much available housing in Saba goes to the approxi­mately 450 international students and employees of Saba University School of Medicine.

“I have two apartments with the average cost of $700. I don’t target medical students; my apartments are open to anyone in need of a place to rent. However, students have always been interested in them, even before they become vacant. One of my apartments has been rented for a few years now, to someone who isn’t a medical student,” land­lord Malusca Baker told Caribbean Network. “In the 11 years since I’ve owned my apartments, I’ve increased the rent once due to the high cost of mainte­nance. This was due to the cost of labour for mainte­nance or purchasing goods in Saba to maintain your place.”

“The homeowner’s insur­ance and interest rates are extra costs to the mort­gage payments that our local property owners have to pay for the rest of their lives. All of this, unfor­tunately, affects the rent price,” another landlord explained.

The Daily Herald.

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