Program will allow first-time buyers to build on St. Croix
Published: February 27, 2013
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ST. CROIX - Government officials and people interested in the prospect of owning their own homes turned out Tuesday morning for an unveiling ceremony at The Meadows at Bonne Esperance.
The planned subdivision, an affordable homeownership initiative of the V.I. Housing Finance Authority, is also the pilot for a new program the authority has launched called "Buy-a-Lot, Build-A-Home."
Traditionally, the V.I. Housing Finance Authority has constructed homes for its affordable homeownership initiatives, then offered them for sale to qualified buyers, who typically are first-time homebuyers.
This project, though, initially was being planned and developed several years ago, at a point when the bottom fell out of the housing market.
Officials since have come up with the idea of offering the lots for sale to first-time homebuyers, said Adrienne Williams, Housing Finance Authority executive director.
The lots are being sold to qualified applicants for 25 percent less than their appraised value, she said.
Those first-time homebuyers can then secure a construction loan and build their home using one of several floor plans, ranging from two to four bedrooms, that the Housing Finance Authority is offering. They also can construct their homes using any floor plan they choose, as long as it conforms to the guidelines and standards that have been established for the subdivision, Williams said.
The set of floor plans for the homes at The Meadows were designed to be fairly easily expanded, so that as the size of a family grows, rooms can be built on, Williams said. The plans for expanding the homes already exist and are on file.
"This allows the families to have the kind of flexibility they need," Williams said.
For instance, the two-bedroom, one-bath plan can be expanded to a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home. Likewise, the three-bedroom, two-bath plan can be expanded to a four-bedroom, two-bath home, Williams said.
Getting to the point where the lots could be offered for sale was a challenge, according to Williams. The project began in 2008, then the bottom dropped out of the housing market, the playing field changed, and the developer faced challenges getting funding, Williams said.
Agency staff "kept the faith," and the project is now at a point where the subdivision plan can be unveiled and lots sold, she said.
Officials at the unveiling ceremony spoke about the stimulus to the economy that homeownership brings, such as property tax revenues.
"Owning a home should not be a dream, but an inevitable reality" for those who want it, said Housing Finance Authority board chairwoman Debra Gottlieb.
Lots for 66 homes sit on 20 acres in the subdivision, Williams said.
Everyone who spoke at the ceremony offered encouragement to those who dream of owning their own homes.
A number of interested potential homebuyers crowded under the awning set up for the ceremony, then spent some time afterward discussing homeownership options with Housing Finance Authority staff.
Some roamed around the planned subdivision, walking along the roadways and eyeing the different lots. The subdivision is in a small valley, with roads, some trees and bushy areas. Lot numbers are visible.
Rosanna LaFond, who discussed what she was looking for in a homeownership opportunity with Gottlieb as they looked at the sketch of the subdivision that was unveiled Tuesday, said she had taken half a day off work to check out The Meadows at Bonne Esperance.
The cost of the lots runs from about $17,000 to about $24,000, Williams said.
The cost of constructing the homes in the plans offered for the subdivision ranges from $180,000 to $240,000, she said.
Williams said she thinks the factors now affecting the housing market on St. Croix - including a major economic slump and a significant number of homes on the market after HOVENSA ceased refining operations - have been addressed in the plan for The Meadows.
"I think that this approach has taken that into consideration," she said.
Instead of building the homes then selling them, all construction will occur for identified purchasers, Williams said. The Housing Finance Authority already owns the land, she said.
For more information, contact the V.I. Housing Finance Authority at 772-4432.
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