July 11, 2003 Help is on the way for beleaguered St. John residents who can't find affordable housing.
In October developers plan to break ground on Bellevue Village, an $18.7 million affordable housing project just south of Pine Peace School on Gifft Hill Road. Residents will be able to rent units for the first 15 years, with some of them then segueing into home ownership.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley said, "It's much needed. Everybody is looking for affordable housing."
Robert O. Jackson of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Reliance Housing Foundation said the first building will be done by August or September of 2004, with the project completed by the spring of 2005.
"It's designed as workforce housing," Jackson said.
It should help address St. John's shortage of affordable housing for people who serve as the backbone of the island's economy.
Harley said that at least one person every two days asks him if he knows of any affordable places for rent.
Reliance Housing recently completed work on a similar project at Lovenlund near Magens Bay on St. Thomas.
At Bellevue Village, Reliance Housing plans 72 units in 36 two-story duplex buildings on 36 acres. Each building will have either a three-bedroom, two-bath or a four-bedroom, two-bath unit on the upper level; and either a one-bedroom, one-bath or two-bedroom, two-bath unit on the lower level. Each unit will be on a half-acre of land.
The units will be rented to people whose household income meets 60 percent of the area's median income, called AMI in government parlance. On St. John, the AMI stands at $42,500. This means that household incomes must not exceed $22,200 for one person and up to $36,840 for a family of six.
Rents will run $541 a month for a one-bedroom unit, $652 a month for a two-bedroom unit, $749 a month for a three-bedroom unit, and $814 a month for a four-bedroom unit. Only two people per bedroom will be allowed.
Jackson said Bellevue Village is designed for long-term tenants, not the crop of transient workers who come and go every winter.
He said that after 15 years, the tenants in the upper units will be offered the chance to buy the entire two-story unit. Ten percent of their monthly rent will go towards the down payment.
The new owners will then be able to rent out the lower unit, providing themselves with income and providing St. John with affordable rentals.
The projected purchase price for the units with three bedrooms on the upper floor is $145,974. The figure stands at $159,602 for units with four bedrooms on the upper floor.
The 24 one-bedroom units will be 700 square feet in size. The dozen two-bedroom units will have 850 square feet. The 24 three-bedroom units will be 1,400 square feet in size, and the 12 four bedroom units will run 1,600 square feet.
Each unit will have washer/dryer hookups, a frost-free refrigerator, a self-cleaning oven/range, ceramic tile floors and ceiling fans "And top-of-the-line kitchens," Jackson added.
The units will have West Indian architecture with high ceilings, cross ventilation and full, covered porches.
Bellevue Village will have a community building, leasing office, playground and lots of green space.
Jackson said that the company will announce in the spring when it will start accepting names for a waiting list.
He said Reliance Housing closed on the property in early July. It was previously owned by a Bass family partnership.
Reliance Housing is a nonprofit company that builds low- and moderate-income affordable housing. It currently owns 3,600 apartments in Florida, Tennessee and the Virgin Islands.
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