St. Thomas- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Marvin Blyden on behalf of Sen. Kurt Vialet, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, to receive testimony on the proposed FY 2020 Budget of the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority (VIFHA), the Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA), and the Office of Collective Bargaining.
The Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority Executive Director Daryl Griffith stated that for FY 2020 the governor’s recommended budget is $2 million to supplement projected revenues of $14 million comprised of leases, land/home sales, mortgages and federal programs. He mentioned that for FY 2019, there was a financial deficit of $1.8 million. VIHFA incurred the deficit due to hurricane damage repairs, handling disaster-related programs, and hiring new employees for the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG-HD). The CDBG-HD grant allocation totaled $1,983,317. VIHFA also received $158,751 from the Federal Emergency Solutions Grant Program to combat homelessness in the Territory and $3,166,875 for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program in 2019.
Presently, VIHFA is in the process of increasing affordable homes to meet the federal mandate. The cost of constructing the homes totals $30K per lot. The monies are not transferred to homeowners. However, VIHFA is responsible for the expenses, according to Griffith. Furthermore, Griffith shared the strategy for expanding affordable houses. “VIHFA has to develop a subdivision plan before home construction begins and to complete architecture and engineering work are inclusive of infrastructures to include roads, power poles for electricity and lightning. The Authority can always use the additional funding to meet its mandate.”
The Virgin Islands Housing Authority is federally funded. Therefore, VIHA does not receive monies from the local government. VIHA Executive Director Robert Graham indicated that the President of the United States FY 2019 budget request is $41.4 billion in gross discretionary appropriations for HUD, which is $12.5 billion less than the $53.9 billion approved by the U.S. Congress. Furthermore, Graham noted that the HUD FY 2019 Federal Funds totals $46,430,029. The budget breakdown is as follows: Resident Opportunity & Family Self Sufficiency is $69,380, Housing Choice Voucher Administrative Fees is $1,912,927, the Public Housing Operating Subsidy is $20,660,133, the Capital Fund Grant Program is $9,639,989, and the Housing Choice Voucher Program is $14,147,600. Continuing to implement the Portfolio Repositioning Plan to ensure developments are compliant with Federal mandates and improving preventative maintenance operations are some of VIHA’s FY 2020 goals; according to Graham.
The Office of Collective Bargaining Chief Negotiator Designee Joss Springette, Esq. stated that the FY 2020 budget is $932,153. Out of that amount, $536,570 is for personnel services, $31,000 is for equipment and supplies, $9,500 is for utilities, $206,031 is for fringe benefits, and $149,052 is for other services. “Our goals for FY 2020, are to bring expired contracts up-to-date, reduce caseload and contribute to the overall improvement of labor relations in the government,” she said. ###