Major renovation work to severely damaged social housing in Belvedere has now begun, marked by today’s informal site visit by several key stakeholders.
In total, exactly 64 apartment units in the six residential towers of Sint Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) will be fully renovated under this contract. This activity – prioritized by the Government of Sint Maarten – is part of the Emergency Recovery Project (ERP-1) of the Sint Maarten Trust Fund, which is financed by the Government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank, and implemented by the NRPB.
The units – locally known as “The Towers” – were damaged during the passage of the 2017 hurricanes. The work that has now started will do more than just repair hurricane damage; it will also completely renovate the buildings to adequate living standards. Based on a budget of almost US $5.5 million, the scope of works includes structural repairs, roof and electrical work, and installation of doors, windows, ceiling tiles, and plumbing fixtures.
Because the works entail complete renovation, the buildings must be vacated for the period of construction. Some tenants have already been temporarily relocated, while others will be relocated in the coming months. To minimize the disruption to their lives, all resettled tenants will receive compensation for moving and storage costs, as well as a monthly stipend for the duration of works.
The first two buildings are scheduled for completion in May 2022. With the delivery of the final refurbished units in the fourth quarter of 2022, safer and more secure housing will be available to eligible Sint Maarten residents through the SMHDF.
Attending today’s site visit were Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs, Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) Egbert Doran, Director of the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) Claret Connor, Trust Fund Steering Committee member Marcel Gumbs, SMHDF Director Helen Salomons, and SMHDF Board Chairman Antonio Brown. Also present were representatives and personnel of SMHDF, NRPB, activity contractor Leeward Island Construction Company N.V. (LICCOM), and activity supervisor ILACO Suriname N.V.
“I’d like to thank all the families who have been negatively affected for their patience and cooperation. You have awaited the start of these repairs after the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and now through the COVID-19 pandemic. Today marks a very significant milestone where we begin the repairs to 64 homes, ensuring that, within this year, they are back in our listings, meeting suitable living conditions and are safe for the families who will reside in them. This remains a proud moment for the Government of St. Maarten to live up to the promise of increasing resilience via these projects,” said Prime Minister Jacobs after the site visit.
“I am pleased to see that the renovation works have begun. This is long overdue for the occupants of these homes, who are hardworking citizens of this country. We have heard their cries for a long time now and I personally visited some of the units and witnessed the deplorable living conditions that they had to endure. Seeing that we are finally having these units completely renovated gives me great joy,” said VROMI Minister Doran.
“Since the inception of the Trust Fund, the NRPB has supported the implementation of critical repair work to Sint Maarten’s social housing stock. I am happy that this assistance has continued to this day, with the soon-to-start renovation of the Belvedere towers. As the NRPB, we are committed to building back a better and more resilient Sint Maarten,” said NRPB Director Connor.
“I wish to thank the NRPB, the Dutch Government, and the World Bank for their technical and financial support and trust in SMHDF’s vision for bunker-friendly housing units within Hurricane Irma’s rebuilding process. I can categorically state that our vision would not have materialized without this support. I also thank the Prime Minister and Minister of VROMI for the significant contribution, in terms of affordable and safe housing, that you are collectively making. This concept will yield and propel cross-subsidization throughout our portfolio to create a thriving SMHDF. A housing corporation that can appropriately and responsibly maintain this respective complex and more,” said SMHDF Director Salomons.
Since 2018, some 369 social housing units have already been repaired using finances from the Sint Maarten Trust Fund, totaling approximately US $1.1 million. Of these, 109 units were repaired through the NRPB, while 260 units repaired by SMHDF immediately after the hurricane have received retroactive financing.