Six future tenants of the new Under the Hill homes received a symbolic key during a short ceremony on Wednesday.
Commissioner of Housing Eviton Heyliger addressed the small gathering that included representatives of the Public Entity Saba, Dutch housing corporation Bazalt Wonen, main contractor Van Boekel, local housing foundation Own Your Own Home Foundation, and emergency services.
Heyliger gave a brief history of phase 2 of the Under the Hill housing project. “Phase 2 excavation works started in October 2018 and now in 2023, the end results are in sight. I started work as Director of Social Housing in 2016, which means that I was with this project from the very beginning to where it is now and hope to see it to the very end,” he stated.
“There was a lot of speculation in the community on how the project was going and the length of time it has been taking. Let’s keep in mind that even though this project did start in October 2018 many of our surrounding islands and bigger countries that the labor workforce and materials had to travel from to Saba were still reeling from the devastation of hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017,” said Heyliger.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The project got set back and got off schedule for some time. “Nevertheless, behind the scenes, all parties continued to work together and today we are seeing the results. Upon request, it was asked to do a symbolic key moment today where selective tenants are invited to share a moment of a key handover.” The tenants who received a symbolic, wooden key, from Maarten Koster of Bazalt Wonen, the owner and landlord, were Leonie and Calvin Winston, Maria Ortiz, Shaneika Biggs, Nicole Reiber, and Caridad Torres.
Commissioner Heyliger explained that the selection of tenants came from a waiting list of persons who are in urgent need of housing. Tenants have been on the waiting list for many years. The selection also includes the size of each home ranging from one-bedroom to three-bedroom units.
Heyliger thanked Bazalt Wonen, the Dutch Government, the European Union, the Public Entity Saba, and the contractor, Van Boekel. “This project would not have been possible without their input, support and collaborative effort,” he said.
Phase 2 of the Under the Hill project consists of 18 apartments divided over three buildings containing three 1-bedroom apartments, three 2-bedroom apartments and twelve 3-bedroom apartments. The official opening of phase 2 will be held once the project is completed. At that time, all new tenants will be invited to the official key ceremony.
After Heyliger’s speech and the symbolic key handing over on Wednesday, the six new tenants, joined by invited guests, toured one of the three buildings to admire the new homes. Everyone agreed that these are spacious, sturdy homes with a million-dollar view over the Fort Bay area.