It is was a proud moment on Thursday, December 6, at the groundbreaking for phase two of the social housing project Under The Hill. Speakers at the well-attended ceremony all agreed that this was a very special occasion for Saba, but most of all for the people, because the 18 new homes will go to persons in need of low cost housing.
“In the last decade the population of Saba has grown and with this the need for housing, specifically affordable housing, has grown,” Commissioner of Public Housing Rolando Wilson told the gathering of more than 40 persons. He explained that the Public Entity Saba had assisted by transferring 18,000m2 of government-owned land to the Own Your Own Home Foundation and also with the securing of funding from the 9th Economic Development Fund (EDF) of the European Union.
Through the cooperation with the Woonlinie housing corporation of the Netherlands, phase 1 of the Under The Hill project became a reality. The first phase consisting of 20 homes divided over 10 blocks. “Today I am proud to witness the groundbreaking for what will be phase two. Phase two will have a total of three buildings consisting of 18 units of one, two and three bedroom apartments,” Wilson stated in his speech.
According to the Commissioner, after the completion of phase two, some US $12 million will have been invested in social housing on Saba. He specifically thanked the European Union for making the funding available from the 9th and 10th EDF, as well as Woonlinie which he said, has been instrumental in assisting Saba with the financing, designing and executing in both phases. He also thanked the Dutch Ministry if Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK for its support, and the various consultants and Saba’s Planning Bureau.
“This marks a special moment in time. After a decade of cooperation we are very proud to recollect our achievements on this beautiful island, serving the people of Saba,” said Woonlinie Director Peter van den Heuvel. He assured that Woonlinie, the Public Entity Saba and the Own Your Own Home Foundation were committed to a continued cooperation to work for Saba and to assist the people that are in need of social housing.
Lars Vincken of the contractor Van Boekel said that his company was immediately enthusiastic about this project, not only because of its design and the complexity, but also to be able to contribute to Saba, its people and the social housing on the island. “As with all projects, we will surely face some obstacles on the road, but I am sure that we will overcome these together, and we will be back here in a year or two to celebrate the opening.”
After the official groundbreaking ceremony, the guests went to the brand-new playground, financed by the Ministry of BZK and coordinated by Woonlinie and the Public Entity Saba. Several other playgrounds have been built with the assistance of the ministry and Woonlinie, at the Queen Wilhelmina Park, behind the youth center in Windwardside and at Cove Bay.
At the playground, Woonlinie Director Van den Heuvel presented a framed poster to Commissioner Wilson with the different designs for the beautification of the large retaining wall that will be built at phase two of the Under The Hill project. Van den Heuvel said that the beautified retaining wall would surely be more pleasant for the tenants to look at than a large bare wall. A big retaining wall is necessary because of the very steep area where the new homes will be built.
Director of the Own Your Own Home Foundation Eviton Heyliger was the Master of Ceremonies (MC). Pastor Vernon Liburd performed the ceremonial prayer and asked for God’s blessing for the project and its workers.
Guests at the ceremony included a number of officials from different governments: Saba Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, Bonaire Island Governor Edison Rijna, National Government Commissioner of St. Eustatius Mike Franco, Saba Commissioner Bruce Zagers, Saba Island Council Members Vito Charles, Monique Wilson, Members of the St. Maarten Parliament Channel Brownbill, Rolando Brison and Christophe Emmanuel, and St. Maarten Minister of Public Housing Miklos Giterson.