Over the past year, residents of Lot 213 at the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) Union Hall Housing Development in San Fernando have watched as a retaining wall bordering their home fall apart.
Photos sent to the Express show large cracks appearing along the wall at several points. However, those who occupy the home have been left wondering if it will ever be repaired.
The area’s regional corporation, the HDC and a private insurance firm have all denied responsibility for the wall. As a result, residents fear that the wall will eventually collapse, posing a serious threat to the homes of many in the area.
“The wall is falling down and it can affect the houses above it. There are homes above this house, and the retaining wall is to protect the earth from coming down. If it continues to fall, it will affect the higher levels. It is a dangerous situation,” said the resident.
The resident said cracks along the wall first appeared noticeable during March 2020. Fearing the worsening of these cracks, he first contacted the Housing Development Corporation (through whom the property is being purchased) for a solution.
The HDC denied responsibility for the wall and referred the resident to the Penal-Debe Regional Corporation (PDRC). However, corporation chairman Dr Allen Sammy told the resident that the wall did not fall under the purview of the PDRC.
“I went to Dr Allen Sammy and he said that is not under the regional corporation. I went to the insurance company and they said it is caused by wear and tear and that it may be a corporation problem. However, again when I spoke with Dr Sammy, he said this is not under the jurisdiction of the regional corporation,” he said.
Frustrated by these responses, the resident visited the agency through which the property is insured. After an inspection of the wall was completed, the agency indicated that the wall’s damage was as a result of poor construction and harsh weather.
Its repair, however, could not be covered by the insurer.
The following letter was sent to the resident, a copy of which was sent to the Express.
“With respect to the damaged retaining wall which was discovered on March 1, 2020, the damage of the retaining wall is a result of excessive rainfall. The structure of the wall, however, appears inadequate to support the area of soil it is intended to repair. The approximate cause of the loss, therefore, is inadequate construction of the retaining wall. This, however, is not a peril covered by the policy. Furthermore, we must advise that the damage appears aged and not consistent with the March 1 discovery. As in regard to the above, we must advise that the insurers are not liable to offer any indemnity with respect to this claim.”
According to the resident, an article published in the Express’ Take Action series in February, which highlighted the collapse of a retaining wall in the same area, drew his attention.
The article related the predicament of one Union Hall resident who attempted to seek redress over the collapse of portions of a 20-foot wall. After being turned away by multiple agencies, this resident was promised action by the HDC. To date, however, no repairs have been conducted.
Contacted for a response, Penal/Debe Regional Corporation chairman Sammy told the Express that the wall’s repair was the responsibility of the HDC.
He said that requests were made to the HDC to discuss its infrastructural projects, such as issues in Union Hall. To date, he said, no response from the agency has been given.
“It is the HDC, they know what too. I told them we will take garbage for you and spray for pests but any infrastructural work is not us, On the 18th of January, I wrote the chairman of the board of HDC asking to meet to discuss all your development projects. Since then, there has been no response,” said Sammy.
“Once a month there is a meeting called the regional coordinating meeting where representatives from various agencies come, even the HDC. They know that these problems are their responsibility but they are not doing anything about it. They haven’t replied and I gave a copy of the letter to the person who came in the regional coordinating meeting. I wrote to five agencies and none replied. A lot of them don’t reply and in the meanwhile those people in Union Hall and other places are facing these difficulties without a solution,” he said.
The Express contacted the HDC for a response. The following was asked:
“The Express was contacted by a resident of 213 Union Hall in San Fernando, who, similar to the resident of Chestnut Avenue, is facing an issue of a compromised retaining wall. The Express was told that the property is an HDC unit, however the HDC has told the resident that the wall is not its responsibility. The regional corporation and insurance companies have also relinquished claim over the wall. Can you confirm under whom the repair of this wall would fall?”
A response was promised but at the time of the publication of this article, none was received.
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