Expansion of Affordable Housing on St. Croix

The V.I. Housing Authority Board of Commissioners approved several resolutions Friday at their monthly meeting including to move forward with the third phase of the Louis E. Brown Villas on St. Croix.

Executive Director Robert Graham said two proposals were received to build the project that will be identical to the first phase of 102 units. The project will cost $30 million and take 18 months. Much of the funding, $18 to $20 million, will come from the sale of tax credits to equity providers, he said.

The HA evaluation committee selected McCormack Baron Salazar, contractors for the first phase of Brown Villas, to oversee the latest project. GEC Construction was the sub-contractor last time and again will build the units while creating about 100 jobs, Graham said.

The first step will be to negotiate a development agreement, Graham said. Since the design is in place, the project can be completed faster. Just the location of the buildings and amenities need to be decided.

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“The experience dealing with the developer (McCormack Baron Salazar) proved to provide a good value of quality work for HA,” Graham said.

When completed, about 25 units will be sold to low-income buyers, Graham told the commissioners. There are over 700 families on the waiting list for the Louis Brown Villas.

The first Louis Brown units were completed and occupied in 2011, and phase two was 140 apartments for senior citizens in a three-story building.

The commissioners also approved a contract for a Green Physical Needs Assessment to evaluate the territory’s public housing units. With seven proposals, Creative Housing Solutions Inc., which conducted the first assessment, was selected. Graham said this assessment will follow HUD guidelines to help the Authority prioritize capital projects.

Chairman Luis Sylvester expressed concern that the company might not do a thorough job but simply update the original report. In the end, he voted to approve the resolution.

The third resolution approved by the board authorizes a memorandum of understanding with the V.I. Housing Authority and various agencies to detail a plan for each entity coordinating a disaster relief plan.

Board member Adrienne Williams, also commissioner of Housing Finance, said MOU’s are being drawn up by a task force of first responders, government and non-profit organizations.

“It was a very enlightening process for us as well — how to address each section of the community and the needs,” Williams said.

Several staff members updated the board on work in their departments.

Graham reported that according to the 2015 budget, expenses and income are in line for the first month. A revised budget next month will reflect the 3 percent increase for employers to pay into the Government Employees Retirement System. No dollar amounts or numbers were discussed.

Lydia Hughes, VIHA chief operating officer, said they are preparing for the annual HUD Real Estate Assessment Center inspection with repairs to units and improvements to common areas in all of the territory’s housing communities. She also reported the demolition of DeChabert Housing, vacant since 2003, is being planned. Construction at Sugar Estate Senior Community is two months behind and already there is a waiting list with 88 names for 79 units, she said.

Attending the meeting were Sylvester, Williams, George Blackhall, vice chairman, Noreen Michael and Daphne Edwards. Vivian Ebbesen Fludd and Colette Jones were excused.

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