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Feds Return Undeveloped St. Thomas Land to Local Government

Jan. 7, 2009 — Land leased to the federal government nearly 13 years ago for the construction of replacement housing units has been officially returned to the V.I. Housing Finance Authority for the original sale price of $1.
The official transfer was conducted Wednesday morning during a Government House ceremony in which local and federal officials laid out their plans to fill the territory's housing hole by giving more community members the ability to own their own homes. The administration will also work with the V.I. Housing Authority — currently under the control of the U.S. Department and Urban Development — on a long-term plan to improve housing communities throughout the islands, particularly Estate Williams Delight on St. Croix, according to Gov. John deJongh Jr.
Both initiatives show what the administration can do working in tandem with the Legislature and federal government, deJongh said during the event. The transfer was helped along by the recent passage of a resolution by the Legislature calling for the land — 34.5 acres which senators have said hasn't been touched since 1995 — to be deeded back to the V.I. Housing Finance Authority.
Thirteen years ago, the transfer was made with "good intentions," and was intended to provide the V.I. Housing Authority with the land it needed to use as a replacement housing site for residents living in the Warren E. Brown and Donoe housing communities that suffered damages during Hurricane Marilyn, according to Sen. Celestino A. White Sr.
"It was an excellent intention — but 13 years later, nothing has been done," White said.
Other efforts to re-secure the land over the years proved unsuccessful, but the Housing Authority's new federal receiver, Robert Graham, worked with the local government to push the deal through, White said.
"This man that now heads the V.I. Housing Finance Authority has certainly made us feel good about his commitment to the Virgin Islands and his commitment to get things moving," White said. "As we can see, our constituency is yearning, begging for safe, decent and sanitary housing."
What has prevented the land from being developed all these years? To put it simply: a lack of money, Graham said after the event.
But Housing Authority and HUD officials recognize the need for affordable housing in the territory, he said during the event.
""It's been a long time– and our board members wanted me to communicate that it is appreciative of the opportunity to hold the land for the government for this period of time," he joked Wednesday, "and graciously return the land for the original sale price of $1."
The Housing Authority's board of commissioners authorized the transfer in late November. (See "Housing Authority Authorizes Land Transfer, Other Actions to Increase Affordable Housing.")
The Housing Authority head said he would frame the original dollar bill handed over during the sale and presented to him Wednesday by deJongh.
The 34.5 acres will be mixed in with another 200 acres in Estate Fortuna that are slated for development, according to Clifford Graham, executive director of the V.I. Housing Finance Authority. The plans for the land will be officially unveiled later this year, and will be the site for future homeownership initiatives, he said. Meanwhile, both the V.I. Housing Authority and V.I. Housing Finance Authority will work together to redevelop the Warren E. Brown and Donoe community sites, Clifford Graham added.
About two acres of the Warren E. Brown site will be used by the V.I. Fire Services, officials said during the ceremony.
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Jan. 7, 2009 -- Land leased to the federal government nearly 13 years ago for the construction of replacement housing units has been officially returned to the V.I. Housing Finance Authority for the original sale price of $1.
The official transfer was conducted Wednesday morning during a Government House ceremony in which local and federal officials laid out their plans to fill the territory's housing hole by giving more community members the ability to own their own homes. The administration will also work with the V.I. Housing Authority -- currently under the control of the U.S. Department and Urban Development -- on a long-term plan to improve housing communities throughout the islands, particularly Estate Williams Delight on St. Croix, according to Gov. John deJongh Jr.
Both initiatives show what the administration can do working in tandem with the Legislature and federal government, deJongh said during the event. The transfer was helped along by the recent passage of a resolution by the Legislature calling for the land -- 34.5 acres which senators have said hasn't been touched since 1995 -- to be deeded back to the V.I. Housing Finance Authority.
Thirteen years ago, the transfer was made with "good intentions," and was intended to provide the V.I. Housing Authority with the land it needed to use as a replacement housing site for residents living in the Warren E. Brown and Donoe housing communities that suffered damages during Hurricane Marilyn, according to Sen. Celestino A. White Sr.
"It was an excellent intention -- but 13 years later, nothing has been done," White said.
Other efforts to re-secure the land over the years proved unsuccessful, but the Housing Authority's new federal receiver, Robert Graham, worked with the local government to push the deal through, White said.
"This man that now heads the V.I. Housing Finance Authority has certainly made us feel good about his commitment to the Virgin Islands and his commitment to get things moving," White said. "As we can see, our constituency is yearning, begging for safe, decent and sanitary housing."
What has prevented the land from being developed all these years? To put it simply: a lack of money, Graham said after the event.
But Housing Authority and HUD officials recognize the need for affordable housing in the territory, he said during the event.
""It's been a long time-- and our board members wanted me to communicate that it is appreciative of the opportunity to hold the land for the government for this period of time," he joked Wednesday, "and graciously return the land for the original sale price of $1."
The Housing Authority's board of commissioners authorized the transfer in late November. (See "Housing Authority Authorizes Land Transfer, Other Actions to Increase Affordable Housing.")
The Housing Authority head said he would frame the original dollar bill handed over during the sale and presented to him Wednesday by deJongh.
The 34.5 acres will be mixed in with another 200 acres in Estate Fortuna that are slated for development, according to Clifford Graham, executive director of the V.I. Housing Finance Authority. The plans for the land will be officially unveiled later this year, and will be the site for future homeownership initiatives, he said. Meanwhile, both the V.I. Housing Authority and V.I. Housing Finance Authority will work together to redevelop the Warren E. Brown and Donoe community sites, Clifford Graham added.
About two acres of the Warren E. Brown site will be used by the V.I. Fire Services, officials said during the ceremony.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.