The collapse of the house in Clare Valley on Friday was as a result of poor engineering, the nature of the soil, and poor drainage.
The three-bedroom house was constructed some two and a half years ago under the Unity labour Party government’s affordable housing initiative.
It collapsed about two months after the owner, physician Katisha Douglas, began complaining to the Housing and Land Development Corporation (HLDC) that the structure was shaking.
The HLDC, a state agency, oversees the implementation of the government’s housing policy, including the housing project in Clare Valley.
Speaking on radio on Monday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said he has discussed the development with Minister of State in the Ministry of Works, Sen. Julian Francis, Minister of Housing, Montgomery Daniel, Chief Engineer Brent Bailey, and chair of the HLDC, Beresford Phillips.
“I wanted to get a preliminary report from Brent Bailey, who is the Chief Engineer, but I gave both Julian Francis and Beresford Phillips clear instructions to indicate to the family that there house will be rebuilt and everything will be taken care of,” Gonsalves said.
“I was informed by the Chief Engineer [that] the problem had three basic sources: one, the nature of the soil, for which there was, I have been advised, a geo-technical study, but the pole, the stilt, or the column on which the house was constructed that they did not take it, given the nature of the soil, down to a point where it ought to have been taken.
“So, there was a challenge of the soil, but, obviously, from what is given to me preliminarily, that there was an error of judgement in addressing the question of the depth of the column.
“And thirdly, I understand contributing to compromising the integrity of the dwelling is the nature of the drainage,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves, who recently took over the works ministry, said he did not know how many houses have been affected.
“But I want to say this: whatever the number, the necessary corrective work will be done by the government and ensuring that the persons who purchased houses have houses which are comfortable and livable and which is an important investment for them.
“So, I just want to make that point very clear, that the government will not duck any responsibility. We will not do like how … at least one government in the past — and I am not going to do any political polemics in this regard, but what one government has done before, which caused a lot of problems in a particular area — Gibson Corner — and wanted to cover up their responsibilities.
“We don’t function like that at all. Certainly, this Prime Minister doesn’t function like that, this government doesn’t function like that,” Gonsalves said.
Lands that the New Democratic Party government sold for housing development in Gibson Corner later began to move, causing extensive damage to the houses there and the area being declared unsafe.
“And I want the Housing and Land Development Corporation to be proactive and sensitive to the needs of the people. I don’t want to hear anything that any official of Housing and Land Development Corporation has said anything which may appear as though he or she is not viewing this matter with utmost seriousness or don’t have any sensitivity towards the people who have either suffered or those who may feel aggrieved and who may feel that they might suffer,” Gonsalves said.
“What is required, … a complete assessment, a scientific assessment, costing of the remedial work to be done and for that remedial work to take priority as we are going forward.
“I just want to make that plain and straight so that there can be no if buts about this at all. I want to make it absolutely clear,” he said.
Gonsalves said the Ministries of Works and Housing, along with the HLDC will be involved in addressing the situation.
“It would have certain financial implications but these are matters which we address, and we have to address them with urgency. We have to make the correctives,” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance.
“In the analysis of what has happened, I would want to find out some other details, but the first thing that I want to know objectively: what is the nature of the problem we have at hand, how many houses have a challenge and what is this going to cost, so that I can put everything in place.
“… So I just want to give that assurance to the people of Clare Valley who have their houses in that housing area,” he said.
Gonsalves said he has been talking to the Jomo Thomas, the ULP’s candidate for South leeward (where Clare Valley is located)
“… he, of course, even before he became a senator, was involved in raising the issues on behalf of some people with the Housing and Land Development Corporation,” Gonsalves said.
Thomas, a lawyer, became a ULP senator in September 2013.