The government said it was forced to stop receiving new applications from vulnerable households under its Housing Recovery Programme, citing the need for more funding.
Health Minister, Hon. Carvin Malone in a recent update on the programme, disclosed in the House of Assembly that, a total of 632 applications were received under the Housing Recovery Programme since its inception in 2018.
“Until such time as additional funding is provided, the programme has stopped accepting applications as of November 30, 2020 for housing assistance,” he related.
Mister Speaker, since taking office in February of 2019, this Government made several adjustments to the Housing Recovery Programme so as to ensure that a greater number of persons benefited from the limited resources made available. Through these adjustments, assistance had been made available to vulnerable households under the following categories: Housing Recovery General Grant (for home repairs) – up to $100,000.00 can be allotted; Housing Recovery Social Grant (for the construction of Social homes): based on accepted evaluated tender price; Low-Interest loan – up to $100,000.00; Re-Build Grant – up to $150,000.00; Material Grant - up to $9,500.00; Hurricane Shutters Grant – up to $10,000.00; Appliance Grant - up to $1,500.00; and Partial Reimbursement – up to $15,000.00.
Mister Speaker, to date, two hundred and sixty-five (265) beneficiaries have been approved to receive housing assistance in the forms of grants such as social grants, general grants, rebuild grants and low-interest loans from funding provided by the Government.
A total of two hundred and one (201) beneficiaries have been approved for a general grant. Of the two hundred and one (201) beneficiaries, one hundred and four (104) persons have benefited under the initial grant instituted in 2018; whereas a total of ninety-four (94) persons benefited from the new existing grant in which homes are made watertight through the installation of roofs, windows and exterior doors, together with essential electrical and plumbing works.
Under the existing grant a total of twenty-seven (27) home repair projects have been completed, thirty-two (32) home repair projects are ongoing, thirty-three (33) home repair projects are currently undergoing the contractor selection process and two (2) home repairs became ineligible during the process of award. ALL EFFORTS ARE BEING MADE TO HAVE A GREATER NUMBER OF CONTRACTORS INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS OF REPAIRS AND RECONSTRUCTION. CONTRACTORS ARE INVITED TO REGISTER, REGISTER AND REGISTER THEIR COMPANIES FOR POSSIBLE SELECTION.
Mister Speaker, it is important to note that under the programme, the Ministry of Health and Social Development has directly contracted thirty-six (36) local contractors and would continue to engage contractors for the repairs and rebuild of the hurricane-damaged homes.
Mister Speaker, forty (40) beneficiaries would benefit from a social grant to rebuild their primary residence. To date, of the forty (40) social homes to be built, eleven (11) homes have been completed; Two (2) homes are still undergoing construction; Seven (7) homes are currently being tendered through the Government’s public tendering process; and the remaining Twenty (20) homes are in the process to be completed in 2021. Eighteen (18) homes are currently in the design phase, two (2) homes are being considered for approval by the relevant Authorities.
Mister Speaker, twenty (20) beneficiaries would benefit from a rebuild grant to reconstruct their primary residence. To date, one (1) beneficiary has received their mobilisation to commence works on their home reconstruction. The remaining nineteen (19) beneficiaries are in the process of providing the relevant documentation to be issued their mobilization to commence reconstruction of their homes.
Mister Speaker, the low-interest loan component of the programme has had its challenges such as beneficiaries recommended for loans refused to accept the loans or fail to complete the process for the loans to be issued. Of the six (6) persons recommended for low-interest loans administered by the National Bank of the Virgin Islands only four (4) persons may complete the process. To date, two (2) loans have been processed and two (2) remains pending. The others were unable to complete the process to acquire the low-interest loans. More so, applicants are not interested in the low-interest loans. Mister Speaker, a balance of two hundred and ten thousand dollars ($210,000) has been committed to date and only $80,000 issued.
Mister Speaker, the Material Grant was introduced in November 2019, in an effort to assist homeowners who are able to meet their own labour costs, but require some assistance in purchasing much needed building supplies. Since the inception in November 2019, two hundred and sixty one (261) persons benefited from the material grant programme. A total of One Million, Four Hundred Twenty-Three Thousand, Two Hundred Seventy-Seven Dollars and Sixty Cents ($1,423,277.60) have been spent for the programme. Mister Speaker, the material grant component provided an immediate relief to affected households to purchase small quantities of building materials from local suppliers.
Mister Speaker, the Ministry of Health and Social Development have evaluated and has approved twenty-eight (28) grants for the purchase of Hurricane Shutters and another forty (40) grants for the purchase of appliances destroyed during the storms of 2020. The funds are scheduled for distribution in the New Year 2021.
Mister Speaker our Partial Reimbursement grant would also be considered in the New Year 2021 and three (3) applications have been received for consideration and approval as funding in this regard has been rather limited.
In closing, I commend the diligent efforts of the team of Public Officers across several Ministries and Departments, contractors, and other partners in the implementation of the Housing Recovery Assistance Programme. As we enter into the New Year, the Ministry of Health and Social Development will continue to press forward to address those persons who are still in need of housing recovery assistance. Thank you Mister Speaker.