Housing Authority reports progress in relocating residents of St. Croix's LBJ housing community

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ST. CROIX - While the target deadline of Dec. 31 has been missed, V.I. Housing Finance Authority officials said that plans still are in place to continue to relocate residents of the LBJ housing community and demolish the buildings.

Housing Finance Authority Executive Director Adrianne Williams said Tuesday that 26 units still are occupied by individuals or families in the housing community as the agency continues to assist them in taking advantage of a number of relocation options that have been made available.

"Most of them have relocated to units available under the V.I. Housing Authority portfolio, and others have moved into the open housing market, while a few are still working out the details for their home ownership options," she said.

In September when Housing Finance Authority officials met with residents of the community, Williams said the agency was in its last phase of its plan to redevelop the emergency housing communities across the territory and begin to address what will be done for the tenants living in LBJ community.

She said the community began with 99 units and at that time there were about 58 tenants left who had not yet moved.

Four months later, Williams said of the 26 units that are still occupied, 19 are working through the process to relocate to Housing Authority units and the remaining seven are waiting on closings on new homes.

Most of the current emergency housing was built more than 45 years ago, and as a result of poor maintenance, the majority of the rental units in those properties were severely distressed and in need of major repairs, according to Williams.

When the notices were first given that the residents would have to move, the news was met with a lot of resistance, Williams said. It is obvious now that the resistance was because of fear of the unknown and persons not ready to make a major change in their lives away from what they had grown used to for some 20, 30 or even 40 years, she said.

"We saw the resistance and we understood it, but we worked slowly with them and most of our residents are now settled into their new homes," Williams said.

While the Housing Finance Authority is moving closer to moving all of the residents from the site, there are still no concrete plans in place for future use of the beach-front location north of Christiansted, according to Williams. She said the agency is looking at different proposals of ways to develop the site and analyzing all of the options that are available.

"It is still early, and we are looking at options that would make it where we can provide home ownership conversions and ways of redeveloping the site," Williams said.

According to Williams, the Housing Finance Authority conducted extensive assessments for each community to identify the viability of the properties. Since then, they have launched an effort to rehabilitate or demolish and rebuild 208 of the 335 emergency housing units that were transferred to the Housing Finance Authority and to create a true emergency housing program, she said.

The goal of the initiative is to move the tenants out and transition them to new homes as seamlessly as possible and continue with the redevelopment of the emergency housing properties.

She said LBJ is the final site on St. Croix undergoing redevelopment, and the agency is preparing to host an opening for Amalie Terrace which is the last project on St. Thomas, located on the site of the former housing community in Hospital Ground.

For more information, contact the Housing Finance Authority at 777-4432 on St. Thomas or 772-4432 on St. Croix.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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