Options laid out for soon-to-be displaced LBJ Gardens residents
Published: September 5, 2013
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ST. CROIX - About 40 residents of LBJ Gardens housing community turned out Wednesday night to find out about their options and share their concerns as the V.I. Housing Finance Authority prepares to demolish the apartment buildings where they live.
Adrienne Williams, Housing Finance Authority executive director, said the agency is now in its last phase of its plan to redevelop the emergency housing communities and now has to address what will be done for the tenants living in LBJ community. She said the community began with 99 units and now there are about 58 tenants left who have not yet moved.
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.
"I have personally seen ceilings where the steel is showing through, and people have complained that pieces of the upstairs apartment is falling into their homes," she said. "We can not allow that to happen. Everyone deserves to live in a clean and safe environment."
Felicita Garcia, an LBJ tenant, said she did not understand why they are being forced out when there are no plans to do anything with the property. She said they have less than six months and that is not enough time.
"Why we being moved when you not going to do anything with the place?" Garcia asked. "We being rushed out like dogs and that not fair."
Williams said the Housing Finance Authority conducted extensive assessments for each community to identify the viability of the property, and 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.
Currently, the properties at Estates Altona and Hospital Ground on St. Thomas have been demolished and rebuilt, she said. To complete the initiative, the attention is now turned to issues at LBJ Gardens and also will be addressing the Queen Louise Apartments on St. Thomas.
"As a result of these changes, the residents have to be relocated," she said. "Staying there is not an option because there will be health concerns, dust concerns and noise concerns during the demolitions."
Given advance notice as early as a year ago, then formal notice in June, many of the residents said they understood why they had to move. However, they said they have applied for public housing previously and were turned down for one reason or another, and now that their situation has changed, they don't know whether their chances will be better.
Gregory Byron said he has lived in LBJ Gardens for 40 years and recently retired.
"I've been sick and I'm getting old," he said. "I'm almost 60, and I just need someplace clean and comfortable for me to rest my head till the good Lord call me home."
Williams said the residents have been given priority for housing in communities managed by the Virgin Islands Housing Authority. VIHA assistant executive director Patrick Moss was at the meeting and encouraged the residents to come in as soon as possible to begin the pre-application process with the Housing Finance Authority. He said currently the agency has 410 vacant units in public housing, they have access to 700 units across the island and there are 63 units that can be ready for occupancy within 30 days.
Moss said he realizes that most of the residents of LBJ would probably rather remain near Christiansted.
Other presenters included Housing Finance Authority staff, who spoke to the residents about their options for rental opportunities, home ownership opportunities and how to access subsidizing and other assistance programs.
Following the workshop, staff had applications and information on hand and said they would work with tenants on a one-on-one basis to find out what option would work best for them and how they should proceed.
For more information, LBJ residents can contact 772-4432.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.