Construction activity is expected to increase on the island this month after the contractor tapped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency begins the permanent housing construction program for homes that were destroyed by Super Typhoon Yutu. A total of 225 eligible households plan to avail of the program.
FEMA External Affairs Office representative Todd Hoose told Saipan Tribune that households that were eligible—212 on Saipan and 13 on Tinian—will have a brand new concrete house that would either have one, two, or three bedrooms and a water catchment system.
“They [contractors] will demolish the old facility. Clear it to build a new one,” he said. “These households said that they want us to come in and build them a brand-new house. I’m anticipating this program to start, because the contractors are already on the ground. We’re already negotiating the prices and working with them. They are here on Saipan and they are going to start flying their people soon.”
He said the contractor is a company based in the U.S. mainland. “But, in our contract, we asked them to use some of the materials that we already have here as long as it meets code. And also, to subcontract whatever we have here locally.
“If we come in and use only the local labor…it will drive the prices here crazy. We have them coming in and subcontracting locally…and the rest they are flying in—from Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland.”
Hoose assured, though, that the contractor is also going to hire locally.
“Because it is also to their advantage financially. We’ve encouraged them to subcontract whatever they can. It is a delicate balance for us not to reduce [local] labor availability for the individuals who are trying to do their own recovery.”
“They are going to work on 20 or 30 or 40 houses at the same time. They are going to start on a few, then 20. …There’s going to be…40 or 60 homes that would be in construction all at the same time.”
He added that it is also in the contract that the project won’t last over 120 days, since the family living in the house could be asked to move out once construction begins and they would need a place to stay. “These families will have another hardship after Yutu, because some of them need to move out. They will need to stay somewhere for 30 or up to 120 days,” he said.
“…Each home that they start [building] cannot [take] over 120 days. Which means they really need to get to work to get the houses complete,” he added.
Hoose said they would bring in another contractor to check the construction work to make sure the houses are up to specific building codes and could withstand typhoons. “You might get a crappy job if you don’t check what they have done. So we will have another set of contractors behind them.”
There were also 478 eligible households that got over $8,000 in repair money; some had already done the repairs in their homes or did not want to wat for FEMA, while others have relatives that helped them with the repairs.