The V.I.Virgin Islands Housing Authority has been obligated $61,056,862 to continue the renovation of housing communities devastated during the 2017 hurricane season. This means the federal government has legally committed to provide the funds when all conditions are met, but has not actually spent the money yet. According to the V.I. Office of Disaster Recovery, the funds obligated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through the Public Assistance Program are earmarked to execute eleven projects, nine on St. Croix and two on St. Thomas.
Estate Bovoni and Tutu High Rise were severely damaged when heavy rains, high winds and flying debris from Hurricanes Irma and Maria ruined interior and exterior elements. FEMA was awarded $16.6 million to repair Bovoni’s community center and mailroom as well as to replace solar panels, windows and other components in Buildings A through E.
The additional funding for Tutu High Rise will support work that has already begun. Demolition started last October on buildings 10, 11, 12, 14 and 22. The recent obligation of $3.5 million will support repairs to Buildings 13, 15, 16, 17, and 18.
The Housing Authority’s public housing properties suffered extensive losses in the hurricanes of 2017.
On St. Croix, $40.9 million was awarded for the Housing Authority’s central office and adjacent warehouses in Kingshill along with the Wilford E. Pedro Homes, Walter I. M. Hodge Pavilion, Joseph E. James Terrace, Ludvig Harrigan Court, Mount Pleasant, David Hamilton Jackson, Aureo Diaz and Candido Guadalupe housing communities.
“The Housing Authority is not only very appreciative of the federal funds from FEMA to continue our revitalization efforts, but also extremely appreciative of the patience our residents have shown while waiting for major repairs of their homes,” Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Graham said in a release.
According to the Housing Authority, this obligation is especially critical for the Walter I. M. Hodge Pavilion Revitalization Project, which includes the complete rehabilitation of 250 units and will facilitate a full redevelopment of that community. A solicitation is currently out for bid for a general contractor to complete the work and proposals are due by June 2. Construction is slated to begin by October.
“FEMA is proud to partner with the Virgin Islands Housing Authority on its blueprint to strengthen the foundation of public housing across the territory. Repairs to these housing communities will ensure Virgin Islanders are able to raise their families in homes built to better withstand the rigors of hurricanes. The inclusion of $4.5 million in hazard mitigation proposals for these projects aims to break the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction and repeated damage from disasters,” said U.S. Virgin Islands Acting Recovery Director John Covell in the Housing Authority statement.
The appropriate solicitations to renovate the remaining housing communities are in the process of being drafted for advertisement.
“These funds are critical to the Authority’s plans to jump-start the reconstruction of our housing communities and improve the quality of life of its residents,” said Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Office of Disaster Recovery Director. “Residents can rest assured that when these projects are complete, their homes will not just be restored to their pre-disaster condition but will be more resilient due to additional hazard mitigation funds.”
Funds will also be used to restore the portions of each community’s residential, recreational and office spaces that were destroyed during the storms.