July 8, 2004 – After taking a second look at the federal Fair Housing Act, Reliance Housing Foundation has narrowed the parameters of who can apply to rent an apartment at Bellevue Village, the affordable housing project now under construction at Gifft Hill.
Only V.I. residents who have lived in the territory at least since April 1 will be considered.
"This formalizes what we always intended," Robert O. Jackson, Reliance president, said on Thursday.
However, under the federal law, residents of St. John cannot be given priority over those of St. Thomas, St. Croix and Water Island.
Applicants also must meet annual income guidelines which set caps ranging from $22,200 for one person up to $36,840 for a family of six.
Reliance will keep a separate list of applicants who are non-V.I. residents, Jackson said, and apartments will be made available to them if not enough V.I. residents apply. But he said he doesn't expect that to happen.
At the June 23 groundbreaking, Jackson had said that by law 54 of the 72 apartments had to be made available to anyone, no matter where they lived, but he did not expect anyone from outside the Virgin Islands to apply.
Reliance formalized its commitment to local residents after Sen. Celestino White expressed concern last week that "just-come visitors" would get apartments to the exclusion of people living on St. John. (See "Senator Doesn't Want Housing Going to 'Just-comes'".)
White said on Thursday he is satisfied that Reliance has done all it can by law to ensure that V.I. residents receive priority. While he would prefer to see St. John residents at the top of the list, he acknowledged that's not possible under the Fair Housing Act.
"I'm satisfied with the attempt and all the effort," he said.
White pointed out that the Bellevue Village housing will be open to all V.I. residents, including those who have relocated to the territory from the mainland. "Not just the Samuels and Sprauves," he said, mentioning two well-known St. John families.
Jackson stressed several times after the groundbreaking that the apartments are intended for V.I. residents. He said on Thursday that all of the applications received so far have come from people now living on St. John and St. Thomas — most of them on St. John.
The deadline to apply for an apartment is Oct. 30. After that date, the units will be assigned by lottery. The 54 units are available to anyone meeting the V.I. residency and income tests. The other 18 units are reserved for hardship cases — former St. John residents displaced by a lack of affordable housing, St. Thomas residents who must commute to St. John because they can't find affordable housing, and police, firefighters and teachers who work on St. John. Those apartments also will be assigned by lottery.
According to published figures, rents will range from $524 to $722 a month for units of one to four bedrooms.
White urged interested St. John residents to apply as soon as possible.
Applications can be downloaded from the Reliance Housing Web site and printed out. Forms also may be picked up at the St. John Community Foundation office. The completed applications must be received via postal mail at Reliance's Fort Lauderdale, Fla., office by the Oct. 30 deadline.
Reliance is also the developer of the Lovenlund Apartments on St. Thomas. The first phase, consisting of 99 affordable-housing rental units, was completed in March. Construction is to begin in September on another 99 units. (See "Lovenlund So Successful That Phase 2 Is Soon to Start".)
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