Thirty-two houses that were built for victims of twin 2013 Hurricanes Ingrid and Manuel are being demolished in Guerrero this week.
The homes, located in a residential estate on the outskirts of the state capital Chilpancingo, were only inhabitable for a single week, according to the newspaper Reforma, due to a range of problems.
They included a lack of basic services and structural problems such as cracks in the homes’ walls, floors and roofs.
In 2016, an expert report completed by a group of engineers and Civil Protection officials determined that the 32 houses were no longer fit to live in and ruled that they must be demolished.
A geological fault line that lies beneath the ground where the houses stand makes them especially susceptible to collapse.
In a report published last December, the newspaper Milenio described the concrete slabs that the 32 homes were built on as being like “ice rinks.”
Construction company Casaflex was awarded four contracts worth a total of 145.8 million pesos to build homes in the Nuevo Mirador estate that were paid out of a 20-billion-peso (US $1 billion at today’s exchange rate) federal reconstruction program called the New Guerrero Plan.
But beyond the 32 homes slated to be demolished, poor construction work has left many other Casaflex-built homes in similar predicaments with wide rifts and cracks in walls that place them in danger of collapse.
“We’re not animals, we’re humans, but here they put us in houses that are very bad,” Esperanza Remigio, who remains a resident of a house in the estate, told Reforma.
“You have to see what they gave us; houses with cracks, without water service, there’s no market, no health center, no schools,” another resident said.
When residents took possession of the homes in 2014, officials from the federal Secretariat of Agrarian Development and Urban Planning (Sedatu) forced them to sign waiver agreements that established that the department could not be held responsible for any defects or future damage in the new homes.
Before their construction, President Enrique Peña Nieto and officials in his administration pledged that the houses would be high-quality and provide an adequate standard of living for their occupants. But it wasn’t long before residents realized that wasn’t the case.
“They gave us hovels, they promised us a well-built home and all the services but we got none of that and we don’t even have a title deed,” Facunda García said.
Alma Jiménez Arias, head of the Sedatu Guerrero office, said that due to the construction irregularities, complaints against the responsible companies have been filed with the federal Attorney General’s office.
She charged that the bulk of responsibility lies with Casaflex but added that the complaint extends to Sedatu officials and if they are found guilty of wrongdoing, they must be punished.
Jiménez also said that the 32 homes destined to be demolished had never been assigned to any families.
In August last year, the Secretariat of Public Administration disqualified the former head of Sedatu in Guerrero, Héctor Vicario, from holding public office for a period of 10 years due to irregularities committed while he held the position.
Disgruntled residents blame him, Sedatu and President Peña Nieto and his administration more widely for the problems they face.
Hurricanes Ingrid and Manuel struck Guerrero within a 24-hour period in September 2013, bringing torrential rains and strong winds that affected more than 16,000 homes and damaged some beyond repair.
Source: Reforma (sp)