In Saint-Barth, tourism leaves but housing remains in crisis

Six months after hurricane Irma, tourism is gradually returning to the island of Saint-Barthélemy. But the housing crisis persists and the lives of the inhabitants remain very complicated.

All the visitors who set foot in St. Barthelemy are surprised by the beautiful appearance of the port of Gustavia and the surroundings of the airport. However, by pushing the walk in some neighborhoods, the stigmata of Irma are present. Torn roofs, rickety houses whose only walls remain …

In the Saline district, there are several hundred tons of waste to be evacuated. This single budget item has already cost 7 million euros to the Collectivité of Saint-Barthélemy, and it is not finished. At the center of cleanliness, the teams are overwhelmed.

Same observation on the side of the artisans, too few to answer all the requests for reconstruction. They work hard, construction site in a general desire on the island to rebuild as quickly as possible.

"We are overwhelmed with calls, quotes, we all postponed our holidays and we works six days a week, "says a refrigeration specialist. However, they are hampered by another problem: the transport of materials, which works in slow motion.

In Saint-Barthélemy, where Johnny Hallyday was buried at the end of 2017, the tiny commercial port can not handle all the containers that arrive. It was necessary to make up for the delays related to Irma, to manage the influx of goods. The swell of the hurricane has moved the seabed, and several cubic meters of sand in the channel have created a shoal that prevents some cargo ships from approaching with their full load capacity. Thus, for building materials, such as car repair parts, not forgetting the supply of stores, the whole island is waiting for its parcels.

– And soon the hurricane season …-

Between homes still stricken and the workforce that companies bring, St. Barthelemy is experiencing a severe housing crisis. The rental market, already very tense, has become a battlefield. Entrepreneurs drive up rent prices, conflicts between landlords and tenants explode

"If I do not find in July, I'll have to leave," worries Sophie. In one month's search, she did not visit any homes, received any calls, found no leads. "My life is here, I live there for seven years …" On an island where the price of a rent is about 2,500 euros per month for a 2-3 rooms, many residents have thrown in the towel and left, including families.

In parallel, the tourism professionals s 'activate to bring visitors, without whom the economy of the entire island is threatened. Thus, the port, the airport, the beaches and Gustavia, the capital district of Saint-Barth, have regained their cachet. The Bucket Regatta, a luxury nautical event held in mid-March, saw the return of dozens of wealthy Americans to the island. Not enough, however, for shops and restaurants

The hurricane season, which begins in two months, haunts the spirits. The Irma trauma is still very present. The Community and EDF are working on a tight program of work to bury the maximum of networks, as soon as possible. Those whose homes are damaged are anxious about not being able to repair in time.

The equestrian center, which lost several horses in the hurricane, is looking for a safe place for its surviving equines, and is trying to repatriate the maximum of animals towards the metropolis. At the beginning of March, a general cut in the telephone and internet network brought the inhabitants six months back, in the aftermath of Irma. "Some residents have panicked," says a social worker. "There, if we take a level 2 cyclone, it's going to be very hard."