Officials Break Ground On Housing Project; Units, Budget Expanded

Javon Liburd, Staff Reporter | 9 Opinions
Published: April 20, 2017 2:32 pm AST
Ground breaking ceremony for Joe’s Hill Manor, First Time Homeowners Project by the SSB. Left to Right Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith, SSB Chairman Ian Smith, SSB Director Antoinette Skelton, Hon. Ronnie Skelton and Mr. James Todman.
Photo Credit: Javon Liburd/BVI Platinum News
The First Time Homeowners Programme, powered by the BVI Social Security Board (SSB), which will see the construction of affordable homes at Joe’s Hill, has seen a significant expansion in both land space and budget.

At a ceremony earlier today, April 20, officials from both the government and the SSB broke ground to signify the official start of the project, dubbed Joe’s Hill Manor.

James Todman, co-contractor on the project, noted that there has been an increase from $11M to $14M.

“The project now costs $14M. You may have heard $11M earlier, but more land and units were added,” Todman said while speaking on behalf of JL Development Group, a merger between James Todman Construction Ltd and Larry Adams Construction Ltd.

The project has been expanded from the construction of 43 units, to now include a total of 52 units in 25 buildings.

Persons interested in the project will have a pick from six floor plans---1 bedroom condos, 2 bedroom condos, 2 bedroom townhouses, 3 bedroom townhouses, 2 bedroom houses and 3 bedroom houses. The development also encompasses scenic views and will boast a gym, playground, commercial and green spaces, and ample parking.

As noted by the Chairman of the SSB, Mr. Ian S. Smith, the ultimate goal of such a project is to create an opportunity for BVIslanders to own their own homes at an affordable cost.

As it stands, over 400 persons have already completed applications, indicating their interest in owning one of the homes.

Smith said, “This would lead to the encouragement of savings, creation of wealth and a future generation of homeowners, and contribute to the foundation of the growing economy, in addition to stimulating the economy.”

Over 100 jobs have been forecast to be made available for the residents of the Territory, according to the Chairmain, who added, “…And over $40M will be circulated in the economy.”

On this note, Mr. Todman announced that throughout the construction, JL Development Group intends to use “local throughout the entire project. We intend to buy locally and we expect to get proper performance locally to complete the project in time."

The project, which is scheduled to be completed in December 2019, will see 4-6 of the homes being fully completed by the end of this year, December 2017.

“We are going to work tirelessly to get these building ready for December 2017,” Todman said.

Commenting on the entire project, SSB’s Director, Ms. Antoinette Skelton said the completion of the project will see a drastic change in the lives of many families around the Territory.

She said, “The Social Security Board has a responsibility to safeguard the contributors' money. One of the ways we are doing this is to ensure that the contributions collected are invested in safe instruments that return reasonable rate of returns. This initiative is a game changer. No longer will owners of these homes be paying someone else mortgage.”

Premier Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith too noted that the project is a game changing moment in the BVI, adding that his government fully supports the construction of the Territory's first affordable housing community.

It was in January of this year when the SSB signed an $11M agreement with JL Development Group to facilitate the design and building of 43 residential units at Joe’s Hill, in the Road Town section of Tortola.

Chairman of the Board, Mr. Smith, at that time assured contributors that the SSB will not be assuming the risk of the development, as the end financing for the relevant individual mortgages will be done through the local banks.

The board expects to see returns of 7% to 12% on the local real estate development investments.

According to the SSB, the board has a long history of investments in real estate internationally, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The first time homeowners initiative will be no different. The Social Security Board, as part of its investment policy, has the capacity to invest anywhere from 10% to 20% of the Social Security Reserve Fund into the local economy.

"Previously, these investments took the form of large scale infrastructure and capital development financing. Given the pressures on interest rates and returns on investments, the Social Security Board looked at an alternative investment strategy that would increase the portfolio’s return while stimulating the economy and ensuring the long term viability of the Social Security Fund," the board stated.

The Social Security Reserve Fund currently stands at approximately $580 million, with $192 million invested in US and global equities; $206 million invested in fixed income and convertible fixed income; $80 million in local credit and equity investments; and $98 million in CDs and cash at local banks.

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