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HomeNewsLocal newsJDC’s Plan to Purchase Bellevue Housing Community Renews Homeownership Hopes for Tenants

JDC’s Plan to Purchase Bellevue Housing Community Renews Homeownership Hopes for Tenants

Qualified residents of the Bellevue Village Housing Community on St. John will have the opportunity to buy their units – as they were promised years ago ­– assuming Jackson Development Company, LLC closes on a deal to purchase the property.

According to a press release sent out Friday evening, “Jackson Development Company (JDC) is collaborating with the Office of Disaster Recovery (ODR) and the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) to secure funding for the transaction. Love City Strong is acting as an advisor to Jackson Development Company and has provided pre‐development funding for the acquisition.”

“We are bound by a non-disclosure agreement and are not authorized to comment further until we close the purchase,” said Robert Jackson, one of the two principal partners in Jackson Development Company. Jackson was the CEO of Reliance Housing, the original developer of Bellevue Village, in 2003.

The other principal partner of JDC is Clifford Graham, who served as the executive director of the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority when Bellevue was constructed.

In addition to acquiring Bellevue, JDC is negotiating to purchase Lovenlund Apartments on St. Thomas and Calabash Boom Apartments on St. John, both of which were built by Reliance Housing between 2003 and 2009.

Lovenlund Apartments on St. Thomas include 99 affordable homes in Phase 1 and 96 affordable homes in Phase 2. (Photo courtesy Jackson Development Company)

Jackson and Graham’s “collective vision for the properties, at that time, was for affordable rental housing financed by Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits and a conversion to affordable homeownership at Bellevue Village at the end of the initial 15-year tax credit period,” Graham said in the press release.

Calabash Boom Apartments, with 48 units, is located past Coral Bay on Route 107 on St. John. (Photo provided by Jackson Development Company)

“Details of the homeownership program will be presented to residents after the properties transfer to JDC ownership,” the press release continued. “JDC has committed to a NO DISPLACEMENT policy that allows residents at the properties the option of acquiring their home at an affordable price or continuing as tenants at affordable rents.”

The transfer of ownership of Bellevue comes after years of activism on the part of a small group of Bellevue tenants who qualified for purchasing their units but were unable to get any confirmation of the agreement from stateside-based owners and managers.

A duplex unit at Bellevue. (Photo by Keryn Bryan)

Tenants who moved into Bellevue Village in 2005  and expected to meet their 15-year requirements for the homeownership conversion program in 2020 appealed to Sen. Marvin Blyden.

After Blyden became involved, the V.I. Office of the Attorney General was able to begin discussions with AIG, the original tax credit investor in Bellevue, Lovenlund and Calabash Boom. (Reliance, the developer of the three housing communities, was no longer involved after Jackson resigned as its CEO in 2013 and formed Jackson Development Company. Reliance closed its doors in approximately 2015 and AIG replaced them with a McCormick Baron entity as general partner, according to Jackson.)

In an Aug. 2, 2018 news release, then Attorney General Claude Walker said he met with AIG President Thomas Musante. “We had a very lively exchange of views on having the tenants become homeowners, as the tenants contend that Bellevue was designed to be a homeowners’ conversion program, and that is correct,” Walker said.

Bellevue tenants listen to officials during a meeting to discuss hurricane repairs in 2018. (Source photo by Amy H. Roberts)

“I remember some years ago that Sen. Celestino White had pushed for this to happen and I spoke to Clifford Graham, who was the head of HFA at the time, and he also agrees,” Walker said. “We ended our meeting with AIG in agreement on this matter and we are committed to establishing a viable plan, which will include HFA to start the process of turning those units over to the tenants after 2020. This would result in an opportunity for the Bellevue tenants in the tight St. John housing market becoming homeowners overnight.”

Tenants were advised to wait until 2020. In 2022, Bellevue Village was sold once again, this time to April Housing, a company providing affordable housing within the portfolio of Blackstone Real Estate. According to its website, Blackstone has 12,500 real estate assets and 230+ portfolio companies.

When tenants were unable to reach anyone at April Housing to answer their questions about the conversion to homeownership, they approached Jackson.

One tenant wrote directly to Jackson, saying, “We realize that Reliance is no longer part of this, but it started with Reliance. Many have stayed thinking that one day [we] would be owning this property to now find out that we have to fight for what was promised.”

She described the situation as “heart-breaking” as tenants lost out on other opportunities 15 years ago to acquire property on St. John when it was more affordable.

According to the tenants’ agreement, 10 percent of Bellevue residents’ rent was put aside to serve as a down payment toward their future purchase.

Tenants questioned what became of these payments. In July 2022, another tenant filed a complaint on behalf of the tenants with the Criminal Division of the V.I. Justice Department. She was advised by the Justice Department in November 2022 to file her suit as a civil complaint rather than a criminal complaint.

Bellevue Village Housing Community, with 72 units, is located on Gifft Hill on St. John. (Source photo by Amy H. Roberts)

The Bellevue Village Housing Community, located on Gifft Hill on St. John, comprises 72 duplex units ranging from one to three bedrooms.

 

 

 

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