The government opted to close a building block by block to redo all the pipe work and this has become a situation that will require temporary rehousing of the residents.
The health crisis in the residential building Les Jardins d’Apolline has become a social crisis. The matter was discussed at length recently at the National Council (see further). Since 12 June, the water has no longer been drinkable for the 800 or so residents of this building. The reason is due to traces of iron in the water, which can be of acute toxicity. “The situation faced by residents is unbearable and unacceptable. It has been evolving and complicated for several years and we have been looking for the most suitable solutions after a huge diagnostic project. The government is shocked by this situation and is determined to resolve it as soon as possible and in the best possible way,” said the Minister of State Thursday evening in a public meeting of the National Council. Serge Telle, in the wake of this, announced the decision to completely redo the piping systems of four buildings of the residential area, block by block, and to refurbish all the apartments. Indeed, the pipe networks inside the buildings require cutting into the concrete to divert the networks to new systems embedded in the false ceilings.
This technique has already been carried out in 22 apartments of the residence, heavily affected in recent months by water damage. About 20 others are underway. “Concerning the precise provenance of the problems, this is currently under investigation,” confirmed Marie-Pierre Gramalgia. Initial findings point to an inadequacy of materials that led to their early degradation in this building built in 2013.
Free rent this summer
The decision today to renovate the pipe networks of the 237 apartments represents an estimated worksite for the period of two and a half years. It involves temporary rehousing for residents. The government chose to act, block by block, emptying each time sixty apartments. So for many families, it will be necessary to relocate during the time of the renovation works. “All the options are being studied,” said the Minister of State, including the private sector. Flats in the operation undergoing work at the Engelin would be preserved in this sense. “The entry of some housing applicants at the Engelin will be delayed, but the situation of the occupants of Apolline justifies their receiving priority for temporary rehousing. This imperative of solidarity will be understood by the Monegasque community,” assured Serge Telle.
Though, at the start of the crisis, a reduction of only 15% of the rent had been announced, but later the government decided to grant free rents and charges with retroactive effect from June to 31 August 2017. Then, there will be a reduction of half the rent in temporary relocation and a gratuity during the relocation. Similar measures will be applied to the beneficiaries of the housing-capitalisation contracts. This was a proposal included in the resolution voted Thursday evening by the elected officials.
Bacteria in the water
For the sanitary component, for the time being, the distribution of bottled water started on 13 June and is still ongoing. Ceramic filters are being installed at all household kitchen faucets. A filtration system to remove particles and sterilise water is also being installed for each building block. With regard to the health risk, the government has increased its precautionary measures. Indeed, of the twenty samples taken on 13 June, one of them showed a presence of bacteria in the water. “We consider that it is better to take showers rather than baths, and do not brush your teeth with running water until the full implementation of the corrective measures has taken place,” confirmed Didier Gamerdinger Thursday night, noting that the results of future analyses would be given priority to residents.
Solidarity of elected officials
At its public meeting on Thursday evening, the National Council added to its agenda a resolution calling on the government to implement emergency measures for the occupants of Les Jardins d’Apolline. Though, for President Christophe Steiner, the important thing is to find solutions, the session turned into a forum for elected officials eager to express themselves on this issue, including many reproaches to the government, accused of having acted tardily. “Because the top level has frowned and expressed disapproval, it seems that everyone has been twiddling their thumbs for three days and that we are finally making real decisions. Why have you waited so long?” asked Jean-Charles Allavena.
An unprecedented crisis
“There are doubts and anger among the residents, so the meeting allowed a first step forward to renew everyone’s trust,” said Daniel Boéri. For Laurent Nouvion, “our compatriots need to be reassured. It is a crisis for 750 families as has never happened in the Principality”. And Jean-François Robillon expressed his hope “that the solutions would alleviate their distress.”
As for the question of Jean-Charles Allavena being surprised by the “deafening silence of the manufacturer”, Serge Telle affirmed that “the government has asked for judicial actions against all the actors concerned. We have our share of responsibility and we will assume it.” An expert in real estate litigation must be designated these days by the government to accompany it in this legal aspect. Jean Michel Cucchi, chairman of the housing commission, said: “The situation should not have come to that.” He hopes that efforts will be made to find available apartments in the free sector. “It’s no use relying on the Engelin. We are in a situation of terrible shortage that may only get worse.”
The political nature was thus heightened, as the vote of this resolution was marked by an exchange of blows between Beatrice Fresko, of Horizon Monaco, and several elected members of the majority. In essence, the elected representative criticised the lack of investment of the New Majority members.
“You have spent your time in pointless gestures, spent your energy in systematic attacks concentrated to your left, and in thanks to those who are in front of you.” A statement deemed “lamentable” by Jean-Michel Cucchi: “To use the distress of people to gain political points, is dishonourable.” And Béatrice Fresko replied to the president of the housing commission that he had never put the situation of the Jardins d’Apolline on the agenda of the meetings of his commission. It was an electrical exchange that crystallised a little more the animosity between the elected and it was a negative point for the resolution, which was finally adopted unanimously.
“Hope and Despair”
Between the declarations of the government and the statements of the elect, the residents are stuck in the middle. Oscillating between “hope and despair”, stated Franck Lobono, who presides over the association of the inhabitants of the Jardins d’Apolline. “Hope because our situation is finally being taken into account, despair because it is a blow to learn that we will have to leave our apartments. We are in the worst phase, waiting for solutions.” His concern today: “Reassuring people on the sanitary level. We ask for the creation of a medical monitoring team and a health line so that the inhabitants can learn about possible pathologies. Behind this comes the question of human well-being for the question of provisional relocation: “What will be the conditions? Will the work be carried out on a permanent basis? There are also questions to be asked about the building built to HQE standards, but perhaps not well mastered.”
Soon the association is organising a meeting in the auditorium of the Technical Lycée, to listen to the expectations of the residents over the coming months. Many residents yet face the uncertainty of temporary rehousing while those in charge continue to redo the pipes.