Oct. 6, 2003 – Sen. Emmett Hansen II is back in the territory from a tour of the Jacksonville, Florida, factory of a company that he hopes will soon be building not only houses on St. Croix, but a plant to produce others for export.
Hansen toured the Genesis Homes factory for a first-hand look at the model homes that are to be featured in a Housing and Urban Revitalization Fair set for the first week of December at Renaissance Park, the former St. Croix Alumina property on the island's South Shore. And he said he was pleased by what he saw.
Last month, Hansen went to Washington, D.C., to see about financing plans for the homes. He has been working with Andy Scholz, Genesis regional market director.
"Genesis homes are everywhere," Hansen said. "They have 41 plants across the U.S. These aren't prefab homes like our people go to Florida to purchase. They are built to withstand 140 mile-an-hour winds. We adopted the Florida building code specifications." (See the Genesis Homes Web site.
"The thing that jumped out at me in looking at the homes is the attention to detail," Hansen said. "If you weren't told it was wood, you wouldn't know. The house is solid. The outer surfaces have concrete panels attached to the wooden surface because that makes it immensely stronger."
And, he said, the homes are affordable. "Running from $35 to $40 per square foot, the highest price would be $48,000 for a 1,200 square-foot home," he said, "and they include General Electric appliances." He said the Genesis market is geared toward working people — nurses, teachers, firefighters, police officers — "people that wouldn't qualify for low-income housing, but can't afford a $100,000 home."
In the territory, he said, "there are thousands of people looking for homes, Section 8 (a federal housing assistance program) applicants in particular. This would give them a real opportunity."
Scholz will be visiting the territory "to do a feasibility study in the next week or so," Hansen said. "I want him to look at other islands in this region to see what the market is like."
Hansen envisions a St. Croix factory that would export the houses to nearby islands. (See "Affordable homes: St. Croix factory, V.I. sales".)
Commercially, the territory doesn't export anything except Cruzan Rum, he said. "Cruzan Rum gets money when it's sold outside," he pointed out. "If we drank it all here, the only thing we would get is a hangover. By and large, we haven't been able to expand our export base, and that's why we're experiencing an economic hangover — because we don't export anything."
Hansen said speakers lined up for the housing fair and their topics include Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on "The Importance of Urban Renewal in Community Building," Jackson (Mississippi) Mayor Harvey Johnson on "Preserving Historical and Cultural Elements in Urban Revitalization," John H. Jackson, NAACP director of education, on "Homeownership Leads to Better Educated, Financially Stable Families," and Stacy Walker, Freddie Mac southeast regional development lending manager, on "Freddie Mac's Role in Affordable Housing and Urban Revitalization."
Freddie Mac is a stockholder-owned corporation chartered by Congress in 1970 to create a continuous flow of funds to mortgage lenders in support of homeownership and rental housing.
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