The territory began offering tax breaks Oct. 1 to homeowners who build or retrofit to be visitable by people with disabilities, according to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
U.S. Virgin Islanders who build or retrofit homes to be easily visitable by persons with limited mobility are eligible for a 20 percent reduction in their property tax bills for 10 years, according to the terms of a law enacted in 2011.
The concept for the law, which creates minimum regulations for new construction and tax
incentives for retrofitting homes to provide accessibility and usability for Virgin Islanders with physical disabilities, first arose several years ago.
In 2009 it was the subject of an annual mock session of the Legislature in which senior citizens assumed the roles of sitting senators and debated a bill of interest to seniors. In 2010, it was the topic of the V.I. University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities annual "Voices That Count" conference, and in 2011 the V.I. Legislature passed the bill and Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed it into law.
It is an entirely voluntary incentive program rewarding owners who meet nationally accepted standards of "visitability," meaning a person with limited mobility, whether from disability or age, could easily visit and spend time there. To meet the standards set in the bill, a visitable home must have at least one entrance with zero steps; interior doors with at least 32 inches of clear passage space and a restroom on the first floor. The bathroom must have sufficient room for an individual in a wheelchair to maneuver and use bathroom fixtures, and have outlets and environmental controls accessible to those with disabilities.
DPNR has established rules and procedures and began the program Oct. 1 through DPNR’s Building Permit Office.
Applicants for certification through the Visit-able Housing Design and Incentive Program must file a Certificate of Intent with the DPNR’s Division of Building Permits.
The building permit process protects the owner’s interest and those of the community at large and helps to ensure that any structural installation or alteration change is safe, according to DPNR.
To get a building permit, the application must be complete. To get a permit, the property owner needs:
- the building permit application;
- the permit application Control Form;
- proof of ownership;
- a complete scope of work or drawing, as applicable;
- and to pay the $29 application and permit fee.
For more information on the Visit-able Housing Design and Incentive Program, contact the Division of Building Permits on St. Croix at 773-1082 and on St. Thomas ,774-3320.