SEMSAMAR announces start of major repair programme for social housing

MARIGOT–Mixed capital company SEMSAMAR announced it has begun a major rehabilitation programme for its entire network of social housing projects to repair damage from the 2017 hurricanes.

The scope of the work will extend through 19 residential buildings containing some 1,085 apartments. Most of the residences were delivered between 1994 and 2017. Only nine residences of 492 apartments are 20 years old or older.

The cost of the rehabilitation work in the 19 buildings has been estimated at 33,737,044 euros although the real cost of reconstruction was estimated at 51.3 million euros. From the 33 million, 19,556,221 comes from insurance claims, 7 million as a loan from Caisse des Depots et Consignations, 500,000 from another loan and the 6-million-euro subvention from the State as announced in the overall aid package for St. Martin. However, the latter subvention is short of 680, 822. With regard to the Caisse des Depots loan, this repayment in full has been guaranteed by the Collectivité.

SEMSAMAR Director-General Marie-Paule Bélénus-Romana said at a press conference that the company is still appealing to the State for more funding, but is pressing ahead with the work anyway. She added that the company has not received the entire amount of its insurance claim.

The work is being carried out in two phases, the first phase will be completed in October 2018, when the second phase starts until completion in 2019.

SEMSAMAR organised public meetings with 1,085 social housing tenants during January 2018 to hear their particular concerns, suggestions and, importantly, how they wanted certain repairs to be done or reinforced – i.e. identifying weak spots in apartments. One of the new suggestions was the creation of safe rooms.

It was also disclosed that SEMSAMAR is looking for a solution for 74 families living in ground-floor apartments that were completely flooded during Irma. Fifty families are still living in these apartments while the others moved in with family or friends. It was indicated that these families would be moved into temporary prefabricated buildings to get through this season pending the construction of new apartments; 52 lodgings will be built in La Savane at a cost of 10,557,500 and a further 22 in Spring, Concordia, at a cost of 5,070,189.

SEMSAMAR gave some insight into why reconstruction is taking so long to get started. It said the three main reasons are money, the French law and the economic environment. In spite of its efforts the company has not received all the funding necessary to rehabilitate its residences. To not punish tenants any further, it has committed to start repair work as of now.

Secondly, the law regarding launching public bids is very strict. Certain delays are mandatory between phases of the bid process.

Thirdly, the economic situation is very difficult for many public work companies in St. Martin that also sustained damage from the hurricanes. In addition, there are delays in receiving materials for reconstruction. It was mentioned some time ago that the State wished to ship in materials directly to the Galisbay port to bypass the port in Pointe Blanche, but it is not known if this can be accomplished given the draft limits in the harbour for certain size ships.

Bélénus-Romana said there is “a mix” of construction companies from Guadeloupe and St. Martin doing the work and assured that St. Martin companies are involved and getting a fair share of work.

The association SEM ta Route, the insertion arm of SEMSAMAR, recently organised a job fair in collaboration with the Employment Office specifically aimed at helping young people get jobs in the reconstruction field. Some 150 young people were pre-selected and prepared for interviews with some 40 construction companies. It is hoped many will have been offered jobs.

SEMSAMAR President and Collectivité Second Vice-President Yawo Nuiydazi, when asked about the perception that nothing or little is happening on the French side with reconstruction, said the slow rate of settling insurance claims and the fact that studies have to be done, then bids launched, building permits applied for, makes it a “very slow” process.

“I can understand the impatience. Not all the aid has been received from France; it comes in different envelopes, per project,” he explained. “The State did not give us the entire amount that we had requested, but insisted it had given us enough. I think the difference between the Dutch side and the French side is that we have more rules and procedures to follow.”

Source: The Daily Herald