The Government Operations, Energy and Veterans Affairs Committee approved a bill Wednesday to set aside for veterans 30 percent of a planned government-subsidized affordable housing project in Estate Donoe.
The V.I. Housing Finance Authority initiated the project, named Whispering Hills, lining up contractors and developers and offering subsidies to help buy-down principal and interest, helping moderate-income first-time homeowners to afford them, VIHFA Director Adrienne Williams said to the committee.
V.I. law requires 15 percent of subsidized housing be set aside for veterans, and VIHFA policy is to set aside 25 percent for veterans, Williams said. So the bill would increase the set aside from 25 to 30 percent.
Williams supported the measure but asked that any set asides be limited to 45 days after the units are fully complete, to help make sure the units sell quickly, generating revenue to build the next set of units.
Banks are requiring tremendous guarantees by the VIHFA before approving loans, Williams said. "Part of these guarantees is directly correlated to the potential for the developer to sell the home after it is constructed. Going forward, the authority must be ever vigilant to ensure that homes that have been constructed cannot sit in inventory pending a buyer," she said.
One hundred units will be constructed in 10 phases of 10 units each, Williams said. Of 100 homes, 60 are to be three bedrom, 2.5-bath single-family units; and 40 are slated to be three bedroom, two-bath townhouse units. Construction cost of the single family units is $237,500, and they will be sold for $257,500, while the townhouses cost $225,000 to build and have a sale price of $245,000, she said.
The earth change permit for the first phase was issued by the Department of Planning and Natural Resoures on Nov. 10. "We anticipate to see actual site work in another 45 to 60 days," Williams said. The entire project is estimated to be completed around 42 to 28 months from the start of construction, she said.
Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson asks how a house can be considered "affordable" at nearly $300,000, saying the price tag would be "hard, even for me with my salary as a senator," to afford. Williams says those costs are the reality of the market, but VIHFA reduces the final cost to the homebuyer by buying-down interest rates and providing subsidies.
Voting to send the bill on to the Rules and Judiciary Committee for further consideration were: Nelson, Sens. Janette Millin-Young, Usie Richards, Alvin Williams, Celestino White and Alicia "Chucky" Hansen. Sen. Ronald Russell was absent.