Published: Aug 30, 2023

ST. THOMAS – Convening simultaneously at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall, the Cleone H.
Creque Legislative Conference Room on St. John, and the Fritz E. Lawaetz Conference Room on
St. Croix, the Legislature of the Virgin Islands held a tri-island town hall discussing the Virgin
Islands Housing Authority’s 2024 Annual Plan in advance of the September 5, 2023 deadline for
public comment.

Chair of the Committee on Housing, Transportation and Telecommunications, Senator Marvin
A. Blyden reminded the public that the Virgin Islands, like the United States mainland was in the
middle of a housing crisis. Blyden informed the audience that paying attention to public
comment was incredibly important to the housing plan. Blyden stated that without affordable
housing to raise families, people will not stay in the US Virgin Islands.

The Annual Plan is required by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. It
guides the VI Housing Authority’s operations and spending for the coming year. VIHA must
take public comment when finalizing its annual plan. The VIHA currently has 4,612 combined
units. This includes 2,525 public housing units, and 2,087 housing choice vouchers. The current
stock of the Authority is at least 60 years old. According to the Authority, it was poorly designed
and inadequately designed. There is a 10 year, $2 billion-dollar plan to replace the housing stock.
This plan replaces 3,000 obsolete units of public housing and does not meet the projected need of
5,000 units. Updates proposed in the plan include the hiring of a third-party vendor to hear
grievances, an increase in the security deposit required to secure an apartment $205 to $500,
increase of housekeeping inspections, and the establishment of an online payment portal.

Various members of the community voiced concerns regarding the plan, as it related to income
requirements for public housing, availability of units, as well as rent to own options. Community
members voiced concern over lack of home ownership programs in the St. Thomas-St. John
district. Housing choice vouchers were also of major concern. Housing options for those who
have returned to the community after serving time for criminal offenses were critiqued, citing
lack of proper policy and procedures. In a closing statement, Blyden stated that the housing crisis
was real and apparent, as well as stating that it was imperative that we do everything possible to
improve the housing situation in the territory.

Senators present at today’s town hall included Marvin A. Blyden Marise C. James., Angel L.
Bolques, Jr, Samuel Carrión, Diane T. Capehart, Dwayne M. Degraff, Kenneth L. Gittens, Ray
Fonseca, and Carla J. Joseph.

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information on legislative proceedings and other events at the Legislature of the Virgin Islands

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October 2023

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