The Housing Recovery Assistance Programme will soon allocate more money towards grants and less towards loans, as part of a restructuring started under the previous administration and finalised under the current one, Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone announced in the House of Assembly on Friday.
Part of the programme, he said, involved an agreement between government and the National Bank of the Virgin Islands for a $15 million deposit, with $3.5 million going towards housing grants, $8 million towards “so- cial housing,” $3 million towards loans and $500,000 towards professional and administrative fees.
He said 105 applicants were already approved for housing grants totalling $5.5 million, which appears to exceed by $2 million the $3.5 million originally allocated towards grants.
Mr. Malone said the allocation of funding earmarked for grants will increase by $5 million, bring- ing the total to $10.5 million.
Of the rest of the 130 total approved applicants, 22 of them were approved for “social housing” with the cost totalling $3 million, and three of them for loans totalling $300,000, he said.
Mr. Malone added that funding for social housing will remain the same, and loan funding allocation will decrease from $3 million to $500,000, which he said was due to the fact that the “vast majority of applicants did not satisfy the bank’s credit requirements.”
The materials grant part of the programme so far has awarded $517,127.83 in building material vouchers to 117 recipients, and is providing nine households with temporary housing support.
Another adjustment includes the awarding of “partial grants” to assist applicants in making their homes watertight along with electrical and plumbing work to reduce the cost burden of the programme and allowing it to assist more households.
Government has received a total of 543 applications representing approximately $41 million in funding requests since January 2018, according to the minister.
Mr. Malone said 419 of them met the eligibility criteria, and would require more than $32 million to fund their “basic building requirements” resulting in a funding gap of over $17 million.
Only 130 “qualifying applicants” have been approved as of Friday, he added.
By working with the RDA to add an additional $3 million to the programme, he said he expects to reduce that funding gap by 50 percent.
Mr. Malone added that applications were ranked by “vulnerability scores” according to assessments conducted by the Public Works Department and the Social Development Department.