Social Development Minister Carvin Malone has pointed to insufficient funds and the lack of land ownership as the reasons nearly two dozen persons are still living in temporary housing on Jost Van Dyke.
Malone made those remarks during the recent sitting of the House of Assembly while responding to questions from District Representative for the sister island, Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull.
Turnbull, in his quest for answers, said these persons still living in tents and temporary housing are without restrooms and running water.
“Several persons remain displaced following the 2017 hurricane for a variety of reasons,” Malone said while responding to Turnbull.
And while explaining why money is not available to assist these residents, Malone said: “[There is a] lack of funding in some regards because it had surpassed the budgetary allotments.”
“Also, lack of ownership of land and the inability to secure permission from registered landowners to rebuild properties that were occupied prior to the storms [are other reasons],” Malone added.
Two still in tents
Malone said while nine applicants were approved to receive assistance to repair or to reconstruct homes on the island, three domes have been deployed by the ministry as temporary housing until permanent housing solutions can be implemented.
He continued: “To my knowledge, there were two persons remaining in tents on Jost Van Dyke, neither of whom has secured access to land for home construction whether on a temporary or permanent basis. It is a hindrance. This situation points to a growing need to supply affordable and dignified public housing in the territory to alleviate chronic homelessness. Unfortunately, the resources currently under the HRAP are insufficient at this time to meet this demand,” he stated.
Malone explained that his ministry continues to conduct outreach programmes on the island to encourage these residents to seek permission and assistance from the HRAP as well as to secure the landowners consent, planning permission and regulatory permits where possible.
He said while he was in no position to predict a date when each displaced person will be provided with permanent housing, he assured that “every effort is being made to prioritize and expedite the disbursement of available funds for home repairs and reconstruction based on needs through a combination of technical and social assessments”.
Essential services coming
In the meantime, the Social Development Minister said residents who have been living in temporary housing structures would soon receive washroom facilities, electricity, septic tank systems and water connections.
He said the undertaking would be a collaboration between his ministry, the Recovery and Development Agency and Unite BVI.
Seven-plus million-dollar agreement
During a Cabinet meeting in May, more than $7 million was made available to assist homeowners in becoming hurricane ready.
This was done through amendments to an agreement that had been signed between the government and the National Bank of the Virgin Islands for government’s HRAP.
The sum of $1.7 million will go towards social housing, $5.5 million will go towards general grants, and $500,000 will be earmarked for low-interest loans.
More than 100 persons benefitted from the assistance.
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