Construction of the Booby Alley Social Housing Project funded by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is likely to begin sometime in 2023, after the design concept is approved in the first quarter.
The housing project was announced in 2018 as a grant from the PRC to construct a total of 250 homes – 150 of which will be erected in the Booby Alley area, 50 in Bolans and 50 on Barbuda.
Construction of phase one – which is in Booby Alley – is anticipated to cost XCD$50 million.
On Thursday, the government of Antigua and Barbuda and a representative from the PRC government signed a technical agreement to continue the grant process.
Clarence Pilgrim, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works signed on behalf of local government following the completion of a soil testing exercise in the Booby Alley involving both Chinese and resident technicians.
Her Excellency Zhang Yanling, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to Antigua and Barbuda said this agreement signifies the commencement of a new phase forward to implement the project given the importance and the necessity of the site investigation.
In the early stages, engineering survey, preliminary design and the construction drawing design works of all the building structures, supporting work and outdoor work will take place.
She said a team of Chinese technicians, since arriving to Antigua on December 7, 2022, has been working closely with the Ministry of Works to complete soil testing.
Ms. Yanling said the members of the Chinese team are from the same company that participated in the construction of the V.C Bird Airport and the UWI Five Islands campus.
The homes are expected to be climate resilient, according to Housing Minister, Maria Browne who highlighted the demand for housing on the island.
“We noted that there is an area that was in high demand but individuals could not have reached the requirements to go through the banking systems and be afforded loans so, we saw it fit that this form of social housing be implemented especially in the poorer communities like the Booby Alley Point area,” she explained.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne who is the MP for that community, said housing was one of its most pressing needs.
“We are literally at the implementation phase at this point and I believe in a matter of weeks and months, at the latest that we should have the initial designs,” he presumed.
Clarence Pilgrim, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works said the tests are just one component to identifying the design of the type of homes that are “environmentally suitable” for that area.
Alden Crump, Director of Works said one of the most important parameters the team reviewed was the bearing capacity of the soil which determines the maximum pressure that can be applied to the ground surface.
“We have hurricanes and that’s one of the things we have to design for and ensure the houses can withstand those forces “… “Antigua is in the same zone as California, so we’re in a very high-risk zone,” he noted.
Other areas tested included the capacity of the soil, the depth of the water table, and the area’s hydrology.
Construction work on the XCD$100 million urban renewal project for the Booby Alley area was slated to begin in the first quarter of 2021 by had been delayed as a result of covid impacts.