April 23, 2003 – A group of Bournefield residents took their housing woes to the Port Authority board's monthly meeting on Wednesday.
The VIPA tenants objected to a recent increase in their rents of $100 a month — especially, they said, since the apartments have virtually no maintenance.
Edward Bertrand spoke passionately about his home and his neighborhood. Bertrand has long lived in the Bournefield apartments owned by VIPA. His grandfather, he said, laid the concrete for the floors of the units, located across from Cyril E. King Airport east of the University of the Virgin Islands campus.
The $100 increase is "out of the question," Bertrand said. "No one here makes the kind of salary where they can afford that increase." And, he said, there are maintenance issues which make the rent hike "incomprehensible."
"I have windows that have been broken since Hurricane Marilyn," he said. "Electric fixtures are hanging out of the wall. They say to 'put it in writing.' We do, but we don't get any response."
Bertrand said if tenants make enough fuss, "a bunch of people will come and look it over, and then we don't hear anything for six months." But, he said, "Tenants are subpoenaed to court if they are a month behind on their rent."
According to Bertrand, Bournefield was "one of St. Thomas's most prestigious neighborhood many years ago." Now, he said, his neighbor parks a truck with a generator next to his house, disturbing his children's sleep.
Aloma Dossett has lived in Bournefield for 23 years, and she is not happy with the maintenance, either. She told of a leaking roof, iguanas getting in through holes in the wall, and the kitchen wall separating from the ceiling. "I'll pay if I have to," she said of the rent increase, "but I want to see some work done."
Lawrence Nibbs and Mitchell Turnbull voiced similar concerns. Turnbull also said he didn't mind paying more rent, but he wanted to see some improvement in return. Both men suggested that somebody from VIPA should come out and look around the property. Nibbs said he has been complaining of leaks for more than three months and has been ignored.
Ken Hobson, VIPA property manager, said the $100 rent increases affected three sizes of apartments:
– One-bedroom units, to $350 from $300.
– Two-bedroom units, to $350 from $250.
– Three-bedroom units, to $525 from $425.
The Port Authority board chair, Pamela Richards, said Darlan Brin, VIPA executive director, and members of his staff would contact the tenants soon about the housing conditions.
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