St. Maarten Housing Foundation to spruce up neglected buildings

      St. Maarten Housing Foundation  to spruce up neglected buildings

Works in progress at one of the homes on Prospect Road.

BELVEDERE--St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) announced on Thursday that it aims to make its group of social housing properties in Prospect Estate, Belvedere, “the flagship” of its repair and maintenance programme now under way.

Lack of resources and funding for SMHDF following the devastating passage of Hurricane Irma, left SMHDF tenants in Prospect Estate amongst the hardest hit, with many having to carry out patchwork repairs themselves just to make their homes liveable.

Having secured commercial bank funding recently to have the works carried out, SMHDF said it is providing quality repairs and renovations. “These will hopefully make up for all the years of distress that tenants have suffered while awaiting such a programme to begin,” Helen Salomons, director of SMHDF, said.

A business plan was created to upgrade the Prospect Estate properties at a cost of US $ 3 million for the next three years. “The homes are being practically gutted inside and fitted with new doors and windows, plastered where needed, with sheet rock being replaced in walls and ceilings,” Salomons said. “Bathrooms and kitchens are also upgraded along with any other repairs required.”

Once the inside of the homes is finished, workmen will be preparing the building façade for painting to complete the new look.

According to management of SMHDF, the works would not be possible without a commercial loan from the banks to enable the start of repairs and renovations at Prospect Estate.

Prospect Road properties were on the drawing board for repairs for many years, SMHDF explained. “Nothing could be done without funding.”

Salomons commented that “it didn’t help that tenants held back on payment of rent due to their poor living conditions, nor that some of the tenants took SMHDF to court to speed up the repairs.”

Fact is, said the foundation, that the integrity of the Prospect Estate buildings is structurally sound although there are some cracks here and there, said Telston Bell, technical director at SMHDF. “Initially, inferior materials were used in the construction. There was also poor electrical and plumbing installations. Had this been done correctly in the first place, this would not be a problem even 20 years later.”

Another important factor is, Bell said, that SMHDF no longer shops for expensive European doors and windows used in the initial construction. “With a simple change of door frames and window frames purchased in the United States, costs were greatly reduced.”

The renovations and repairs can take place much faster, but best of all, more economically, Bell said.

The three-year plan means the Prospect Estate properties will be completed with a fresh coat of paint in 2024, not only to the relief of tenants, but also to the satisfaction of SMHDF executive management and supervisory board, both keen to showcase the work they are doing to improve the living conditions of their tenants, “even if it means dipping into the organisation’s own pockets to make that happen,” Salomons said.

The focus of SMHDF is to get into the properties, upgrade them and move the tenants back in. So far management has received positive feedback from the tenants regarding the quality of the works and relief following their long wait.

“We would like to request the cooperation and understanding of our valuable tenants as we are progressing with our three-year vision,” Salomons said. “In time the SMHDF will communicate with the relocation process with respective tenants to alternative housing accommodations being made available by SMHDF.”

The Daily Herald

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