Home News Local news Senator Doesn't Want Housing Going to 'Just-comes'

Senator Doesn't Want Housing Going to 'Just-comes'


July 2, 2004 – Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. fears that the 72 affordable apartments now under construction at Bellevue Village on St. John won't go to their intended tenants — St. John residents.
He said the lottery system that the developer, Reliance Housing Foundation, plans to use in assigning units will allow for people other than St. John residents to get the apartments. Instead, he would prefer a first-come, first-served sign-up list.
"I don't want people coming from Florida and Arkansas," White said.
In a press release, he called them "just-come visitors."
And he particularly doesn't want people who arrive to work during the winter season to end up getting apartments.
Robert O. Jackson, Reliance president, said the company must adhere to federal fair housing laws which prevent discrimination but that it is doing all it can to ensure that the apartments go to St. John people. "We are not advertising on the mainland," he said.
He said anyone who rents a unit must have it as their primary residence. This would rule out applications from people who want a vacation home on St. John.
Also, he said, tenants will have to sign one-year leases, which would keep winter workers from moving in.
He said the one and two-bedroom apartments might go to people such as teachers who don't plan to move to St. John permanently but will stay for several years. But he's convinced that the three- and four-bedroom units will attract people with long-term ties to the island.
And 18 of the 72 apartments are reserved for hardship cases — people who have been displaced from other St. John housing.
Applicants picked in the first round of the lottery drawing will then have to fill out an extensive application that includes documenting their income and be personally interviewed.
Income guidelines range from a maximum of $22,200 for one person up to $36,840 for a family of six. Rents range from $524 to $722 a month.
Jackson said Reliance used a list to assign units when it developed the Lovenlund project on St. Thomas last year, but the system didn't work well.
"We got inundated with applications," he said. And they were sent to various locations including the Housing Finance Authority, White's office and the Reliance headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., making it hard to keep track of who applied first. He said the lottery system is the fairest way.
According to Jackson, about 200 people have already sent in applications for Bellevue Village. "They were all from St. Thomas and St. John, but primarily from St. John," he said.
Many former St. John residents now live on St. Thomas because they can't find affordable housing on St. John. And numerous St. Thomas residents work on St. John. Presumably, some would prefer to end their commute by moving to St. John.
The deadline is Oct. 30 for submitting applications, which must be mailed to the Reliance's Fort Lauderdale office. Application forms can be downloaded from the Reliance Housing Web site and printed out. They're also available at the St. John Community Foundation office.

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