Housing development readied for hurricanes

National Housing Development Trust officials visited affordable housing communities in West Bay and Windsor Park on Saturday, 17 June in a bid to start their hurricane evacuation preparations.

Chairman of the NHDT, Leonard Ebanks explained that as the organization tasked with providing and maintaining the homes, the Trust is very aware of its obligation to the communities concerned, states a GIS press release.

‘We are always mindful of our responsibility for the occupants’ security and of our need to prepare for possible natural disasters,’ he said. ‘Meetings such as those held on 17 June give us an opportunity to start the process.’

During the meeting at the West Bay location, discussions focused mainly on an evacuation contingency plan as recent rains and subsequent flooding clearly indicated the need for relocation to higher ground in the event of a storm. The area was also almost entirely submerged during Hurricane Ivan.

Highlighting the fact that there were only three authorized shelters in West Bay — the Town Hall, the John A. Cumber Primary School hall and class rooms, and the West Bay Health Centre – which could accommodate some 335 people, NHDT General Manager Maxine Gibson said that immediate arrangements had to be made for relocation in the event of a storm. With West Bay’s affordable housing site population almost equal to the capacity range of the shelters, she suggested that many residents would need to consider relocating to family members’ homes on higher ground.

‘There are 69 homes and some 300-plus residents living in this community alone,’ Ms Gibson said, referring to the West Bay development off Capt. Joe Osbert Road. ‘Space at the shelters in West Bay is limited, so you may have no option but to find alternative accommodations.’

The NHDT presented residents with a hurricane checklist including a sheet on which each household was required to record the name and age of every resident. Contact details for the three hurricane marshals assigned to the West Bay development, Enrique Whittaker, Emilio Borden and Hillard Smith, were also included in the package. Residents were further encouraged to prepare for psychological effects before and after a disaster, as well as to remain vigilant and keep track of bulletins and storm advisories.

Later, during the question and answer segment of the meeting, residents aired grievances regarding the quality of their homes, listing various problems which had surfaced since occupancy. Ms Gibson assured them that some of the maintenance problems could be corrected and that by Monday (19 June) the NHDT maintenance crew would begin caulking some of the more vulnerable areas, windows and foundations, which had shown signs of leakage during recent rain.

She, however, advised that the long-term plan was to relocate residents to more structurally-sound homes, possibly concrete buildings. Phase One is to include 25 homes at the Eastern Avenue housing site, with first preference being given to current home owners and the 400-plus applicants already in the NHDT’s system.

Ms. Gibson added that the Trust has an obligation to owners who have already signed mortgage agreements with them. Residents with lease agreements also have ‘a foot in the door.’