The Meadows in Bonne Esperance may not look like much now, but Adrienne Williams, executive director of the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority, asked those who attended the subdivision’s ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday to imagine the possibilities.
Currently the subdivision consists of less than a mile of paved road and 66 cleared lots that VIHFA will sell at 75 percent of their market value to first-time, low-income homeowners.
“When I put on my futuristic glasses, I see hardworking Virgin Islanders building their homes,” Williams said. “I see young children growing up with positives lives right here, playing and enjoying each other. And I see the economic benefit that the construction of 66 single family homes can bring to this territory.”
Williams told the crowd that the authority will implement a pilot program, known as “Buy a Lot, Build a Home,” to develop the subdivision.
She said that when the project was originally conceived, the authority had planned to hire a single contractor to build the entire neighborhood and then find people to buy the homes, but due to local banks’ more conservative lending practices after the 2007 financial crisis, they could not find the funds to start construction.
“What [the banks] did not want to do is finance an entire development of 66 homes,” Williams said.
She said VIHFA hatched a new plan to attract first-time homebuyers to develop the land themselves.
In order to make the lots attractive to low-income families, the authority has committed to walking the homebuyers through the process. They have prepared four home plans from which families can choose, and VIHFA representatives will act as intermediaries between the buyers and three pre-approved contractors during the building process.
Each family will be responsible for securing their own financing, but Williams added that the authority would be willing to offer small grants or low-interest loans to individuals who can’t secure sufficient financing through a bank.
Williams stressed that the subdivision would not be a community of “starter homes.” She said that Virgin Islanders tended to put down deep roots, and she imagined some first-time homebuyers could live in the subdivision their entire lives and pass the home on to their children.
With that in mind, she said the authority designed the pre-approved housing plans to be expandable. The 2 bedroom 1 bath model can be expanded to the 3 bedroom 2 ½ bath model, and the 3 bedroom 2 bath plan can be upgraded to a 4 bedroom 2 bath home.
Williams said the advantage from choosing one of these plans is that the blueprints for the expansion are included, so families do not need to deal with an architect or draftsmen in the future when they require more space.
She added that people were free to opt out of the “Buy a Lot, Build a Home” program and can design their own homes if they wish.
In order to qualify for the program, individuals must be first-time homebuyers who have lived in the Virgin Islands for at least two years. Their family income cannot exceed $110,000 a year.
As of the morning of the ceremony, Williams said, none of the lots had been purchased but she was confident the subdivision would fill up.
She encouraged those would-be home buyers “to stay committed to your dream of homeownership.”
“We’re here to open those doors to make affordable housing a reality,” Williams said.