STATEMENT GIVEN BY THE DEPUTY PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE AT THE ELEVENTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
UPDATE ON THE HOUSING RECOVERY ASSISTANCE PROGRAMME
Mister Speaker, I am pleased to present an update on the support being provided to vulnerable households by the Government of the Virgin Islands to repair and rebuild hurricane-damaged homes.
A total of six hundred and seventeen (617) applications were received under the Housing Recovery Programme since its inception in 2018, and the programme continues to receive applications for housing assistance.
Mister Speaker, based on the protocols previously established, housing assistance is available to vulnerable households under the following categories:
- Housing Recovery General Grant (for home repairs) – up to $100,000.00
- Housing Recovery Social Grant (for the construction of Social homes) : based on accepted evaluated tender price
- Low-Interest loan – up to $100,000.00
- Material Grant – up to $7,500.00
Mister Speaker, to date, two hundred and thirteen (213) beneficiaries have been approved to receive housing assistance in the forms of grants, low-interest loans, or social housing from funding provided by the Government. A total of one hundred and eighty six (186) beneficiaries have benefited from a general grant. Of the one hundred and eighty-six (186) beneficiaries, one hundred and four (104) persons benefited under the initial grant; whereas a total of eighty-two (82) persons benefited from the existing grant in which homes are made watertight through the installation of roofs, windows and exterior doors, together with essential electrical and plumbing works. Under the existing grant, a total of nineteen (19) home repair projects have been completed, fourteen (14) home repair projects are ongoing and the remaining forty-nine (49) home repair projects are currently undergoing the contractor selection process. Mister Speaker, it is important to note that under the programme, the Ministry of Health and Social Development has directly contracted twenty-four (24) local contractors and would continue to engage contractors for the repairs and rebuild of the hurricane-damaged homes.
Mister Speaker, twenty three (23) beneficiaries would benefit from a social grant to rebuild their primary residence. To date, of the 23 social homes to be built, Ten (10) homes have been completed; Two (2) homes are still undergoing construction; Seven (7) homes are currently being tendered through the Government’s public tendering process; Two (2) homes are currently in the design phase; One (1) home is being considered for approval by the relevant Authorities; and One (1) home is scheduled to start within the next few weeks.
Mr. Speaker, with the additional funding that has been dedicated to construct Social Homes, it is safe to report that more beneficiaries will receive assistance in the form of a social grant to rebuild their homes.
Mister Speaker, the low-interest loan component of the programme has it challenges such as beneficiaries recommended for loans refused to accept the loans or fail to complete the process for the loans to be issued. Of the six (6) persons recommended for low-interest loans administered by the National Bank of the Virgin Islands, only four (4) persons have completed the process. To date two (2) loans have been processed and two (2) remains pending. The others were unable to complete the process to acquire the low-interest loans. More so, applicants are not interested in the low-interest loans for one reason or the other. Mister Speaker, a balance of two hundred and ten thousand dollars ($210,000.00) has been committed.
Mister Speaker, the Material Grant was introduced in November 2019, in an effort to assist homebuilders who are able to meet their own labour costs, but require some assistance in purchasing much needed building supplies. Since the inception in November 2019, one hundred and ninety-three (193) persons benefited from the material grant programme. A total of one million, one hundred ninety-six thousand, six hundred fifty-seven dollars and five cents ($1,196,657.05) have been committed for the programme. Mister Speaker, the material grant component continues to provide an immediate relief to affected households to purchase small quantities of building materials from local suppliers.
Funding has always been an issue but with the additional funding announced this will alleviate some of the persons now requiring social homes.
Mr. Speaker, as the new funding, as mentioned before, is under the remit of Finance and the Premier’s office, the Housing Recovery Programme in the Ministry of Health and Social Development, when required, will offer suggestions for the restructure of the home rebuild protocols so that families that could not benefit from the limited funding that was previously available can now be reconsidered. It is recognised that additional funding would still be required BUT little-by-little – home-by-home, together we shall overcome.
In closing, I commend the diligent efforts of the team of Public Officers across several Ministries and Departments, contractors, and other partners in the implementation of the Housing Recovery Assistance Programme. As we celebrate these milestones, let us not lose focus on the numerous people who are still waiting on public assistance; and we are mindful, Mister Speaker that we are in the start of hurricane season, we will continue to do what is possible in haste, in order to make persons as safe as possible.
Thank you, very much, Mister Speaker.