Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. met virtually via Teams on Monday with Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Adrianne Todman and discussed a number of topics regarding a variety of housing issues in the territory.
Among the issues discussed were the governor’s Vision 2040 Initiative, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funding, the Virgin Islands Housing Authority’s makeover of all 3,000 public housing units, the possibility of adjusting requirements for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program so more Virgin Islanders can receive funding and Gov. Bryan’s request that FEMA waive the 10% local match requirement on recovery projects, which the Government of the Virgin Islands is paying with CDBG-DR funds.
“We had a very productive discussion, and I’m looking forward to working with Deputy Secretary Todman, who, as a native Virgin Islander, understands the sometimes special circumstances and needs we have as a territory. That understanding is very beneficial to keeping an open dialogue with President Biden’s administration and helping advance the issues important to the Virgin Islands,” Bryan said.
“One of those issues is rental assistance for our renters and landlords affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Deputy Secretary Todman said she will work with us so Virgin Islanders can get their fair share of the benefits. On a personal note, I also look forward to welcoming her home when she comes to visit the territory in person,” he said.
Deputy Secretary Todman, who is a native Virgin Islander, opened the meeting by saying it felt like a homecoming meeting with the governor and other senior officials in the Bryan-Roach Administration and that she is planning to personally visit the territory in the very near future.
Also attending the meeting virtually were Office of Disaster Recovery Director Adrienne Williams, Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority Executive Director Daryl Griffith, Virgin Islands Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Graham and VIHFA Chief Disaster Recovery Officer Dayna Clendinen.
Todman also explained that HUD expects to receive about $300 billion in funding in the reconciliation bill currently before Congress and that, in addition to some of the funding earmarked for rental assistance, there is a fair amount of money slated for homeowner down payment assistance programs.
Bryan and Todman also talked about homelessness and rental assistance, and she said she will work with her staff to see if there are ways to provide more flexibility to the territory to use specified HUD funds for those purposes. Bryan explained to the deputy secretary that the current formula for home construction costs and federal income requirements don’t accurately reflect the needs of Virgin Islanders, thus limiting the Bryan-Roach Administration’s ability to provide the relief HUD intends with the funding to more residents.
Todman also said she would address with FEMA the governor’s request to waive the 10% local match for recovery projects to enable HUD CDBG-DR funds to be used more directly toward recovery projects.