Contracts to restore homes affected by the fire start to be signed on Thursday

Rui André guarantees that no resettlement or recovery process is stalled at the Chamber

Photo: Gonçalo Dourado|Sul Informação

The first contracts for the reconstruction of houses affected by the fire in Monchique will be signed this Thursday, February 14th. For now, about a dozen reconstruction or resettlement processes, under the Gateway program, have been completed and support will begin to arrive. About 40 of the identified cases of families displaced by the fire remain unsolved.

Rui André, mayor of Monchique, told the Sul Informação that «we have scheduled, on the 14th, the signing of contracts with the first people. In these cases, all that is needed is for them to bring the non-debt document to Social Security, which is mandatory for contracts with the State, and people will soon receive the money».

According to the mayor, "ten, twelve people" will sign contracts with the Institute for Housing and Urban Rehabilitation (IHRU).

According to the mayor, there are 52 cases of displaced families, “but not all of them correspond to housing rehabilitation. Some of the cases are of lease, of people who lived in rented houses and, in this case, it is a simpler situation».

Rui André guarantees that «all the people who wanted to, are being supported. There were those who opted for another solution. But those who wanted support from the IHRU, or Social Security, at the beginning, are receiving support from the rent payment. That was our first concern: to find a solution for homeless people. Depending on the cases, we found more definitive solutions, or less. There are people in relatives' homes, in borrowed homes, or supported on income through Social Security. There were also those who preferred to stay in the affected places, when there was no total destruction of the house».

Of the 52 cases, there are also “two or three that will leave the list, because they had support from insurance companies and the insurance amount covers rehabilitation. Then there are situations of works carried out without licensing, in which case the IHRU does not support the reconstruction. In these situations, we are working with people, on a case-by-case basis, to legalize the constructions, so that they fit in with the support,” he added.

Rui André also explains that «there are situations in which it is necessary to carry out projects and we are trying, whenever possible, to submit the processes with the declaration and the term of responsibility of the senior technician who supervises the work. However, there are cases in which this is not enough and there needs to be an architectural or stability project, because there has been total destruction or because the walls or roofs have to be reinforced».

In cases of reconstruction that have not yet been resolved, according to the mayor, “we are waiting for people to bring documents, such as the project or, in cases where it is not necessary, the budgets. According to the IHRU, three contractors' budgets with values ​​for construction are needed. As soon as these documents arrive, we submit them to the IHRU. The lowest budget will always be approved if it is within the reference values ​​per square meter. Then, it's a matter of finding a solution for the payment: either they receive everything straight away, or there will be a phased payment, it depends on the contractor».

There are also different situations in which “people will choose to buy houses elsewhere. The Gateway program also supports these types of situations. Here we have three or four situations where this will be the solution. If people want, the IHRU is willing to do it».

This is the solution for cases where the destroyed buildings are completely illegal and there is no chance of regularizing the situation. "There is also the possibility of having lease supported for five years, with the intention to purchase".

The solutions, according to the mayor, exist, but they all involve a lot of bureaucracy, which takes time. And there are cases where “people have not yet decided what they want to do”.

Although only now, six months later, the first support processes for the reconstruction of houses have been concluded, Rui André says that there was no other solution to expedite requests for support.

«After Pedrógão, there couldn't be a similar situation in Monchique and this solution was created, Porta de Entrada, a new, very defensive program that aims to avoid mistakes made in another area. As it is new and nobody has tried this, it is giving work, both to the Municipality and to the IHRU itself, and every day questions arise», explains Rui André.

Even so, for the mayor, “the main reason for the delay was the time it took to sign the protocol and reach the definitive list. The first draft of the protocol had a value of just over 1 million euros and we practically doubled the value, to around 2,5 million euros in this version. The first version reached the Chamber at the end of October and we only signed the document, with the Secretary of State for Housing, in December, with the final list of cases».

Rui André therefore leaves a guarantee: «I will not allow any error in this process. When the referral of affected people was made, I called all the presidents of the Board, gathered the technicians and saw the situations, case by case, with photographs. All cases were unanimously approved. Since then, the processes have been transparent, we were always informing about what we are doing. I am sure that what happened in Pedrógão will not happen. This delay happens because we want to do things well».

“We have technicians working every day and no process is stopped. Those who are there are for lack of documents that people have to bring", adds Rui André, who says "I don't see any other way to do this than this". “I don't see another way to give people the money faster to do the works. The only tool we were given was this one. What other solutions would there be? Make houses without a project? No budgets from contractors? With people saying they need €50 and taking a check? Maybe it could have been streamlined at the start, but at this moment, after the protocol has been signed, what is being done is what is needed».

On the role of the Monchique City Council in the process, Rui André explains that the injured "are people of some age and the City ends up having to do work for them".

Therefore, the mayor does not accept the Government's criticism of his performance, like the one made by the Minister of the Environment, last week, when he accused the municipality of "lack of dynamics".

«The services of the Chamber have done everything to be a solution. The Chamber was left out of the fund management, it doesn't decide anything, it's just an expeditor. If they had given us 2,5 million euros, many of the situations would have already been resolved», guarantees Rui André.