The Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) readies staging area for materials to build and repair EnVIsion Program homes
St. Croix, USVI – The VIHFA is set to repair and reconstruct 200 houses in the EnVIsion Homeowner and Rental Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program, providing relief to families whose homes were damaged during the 2017 hurricanes. Applicants in the program are being notified of their status through their case managers as construction is scheduled to begin in late November under a new request for proposal (RFP). In St. Croix, contractors will have access to the Authority’s stock of lumber materials currently housed at the shuttered Alexander Henderson Elementary School (Henderson) campus.
The lumber was originally purchased using FEMA funds for the Emergency Home Repair Program, which completed temporary repairs on 6,517 homes and permanent roof repairs on 1,644 houses following the hurricanes of 2017. In July of this year, FEMA gave VIHFA the authorization to use the materials for the EnVision program.
The excess of material was stored at a secure location under a lease agreement with The Sunshine Mall. Before the ending of the lease, the landlord indicated their decision not to renew, resulting in the removal of the material from the property. The Authority then entered discussions with the Department of Property and Procurement and the Virgin Islands Department of Education (VIDE) to use the Alexander Henderson Elementary School campus to store the material while homes in the EnVIsion program await repair.
In June 2021, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was executed by all three parties establishing an agreement for the materials to be stored for one year, with an option to renew, if needed. The agreement indicates there is no exchange of funds, subsequently saving the Authority nearly $100,000 per year in storage fees.
According to top officials at VIDE, the decision to close the school under the current administration was due to “a series of air-quality, structural and environmental issues that had not been resolved after a number of mitigation efforts.” The Department also maintains that the Alexander Henderson Elementary School campus is “unsuitable to operate as a school” and further supports the MOU stating that Henderson’s “grounds provide adequate space to store supplies that are being used to repair and/or to rebuild homes for many St. Croix families through the V. I. Housing Finance Authority. As such, the VIDE and VIHFA are working collaboratively as GVI agencies to serve the people of the Virgin Islands.”
The lumber is secured and will be appropriately protected with weather-proof tarps. A company has been hired to provide 24-hour security at the school campus. In addition, the lumber stored is not being offered for material sale.
The Authority will be using the lumber material for its construction projects, mainly the EnVIsion Program and new home construction headed by the Homeownership division.