Gov. approves measures to
bolster Affordable Housing
for 1st time
goverment has put measures in place for a two-prong strategy to assist first
time home owners in purchasing land at a low price and providing reasonable
financing through the Development Bank of the Virgin Islands. To make this
possible some 42 acres of land better known as “Stevens Land” at Greenland were
acquired by the government in 1989, but only in 1997 the vast acreage was
subdivided in house lots to be made available to first time landowners at a
reasonable rate. At that time some 203 applications were received for 66
residential and two commercial lots.
detailed presentation at last week’s sitting of the Legislative Council held on
27 May, Minister of Natural Resources & Labour Hon. Alvin Christopher told
Deputy Speaker of the House Hon. Eileene L. Parsons and Members of the House
that the sub-division was completed, roads cut and in 2002 the list was
revisited and names placed in categories by the Ad Hoc Committee upon the
request of the Ministry.
A number of
potential awardees complained that the cost of the land was “unfair” and the
issue was raised again in September 2003 when the Ministry of Natural Resources
received several complaints. Mr. Christopher told parliamentarians that in
November 2003 the Executive Council (ExCo) approved the new price of 70 cents
per square foot for residential and 90 cents per sq. ft. for commercial lots.
Research at the Land Registry Department to investigate the possibility of prior
land ownership of the potential awardees was carried out by the Ministry.
Christopher explained that as of 1 June his Ministry will commence issuing
letters of commitment to those persons who do not own land, “Our next step will
be to have ExCo approve new names as additional awardees, replacing those who we
discovered already had real property,” the Minister of Natural Resources said.
In a well
concerted move during the same sitting of the Legislative Council Deputy Chief
Minister and Minister of Finance, Health & Welfare, Hon. Ronnie Skelton moved a
motion seeking approval for a loan of $5.5 Million by the BVI Social Security
Board to the Development Bank of the Virgin Islands. The 20-year loan is subject
to a 5-year grace period on the repayment of the principal sum at an interest
rate of 4.5 per cent per annum. The interest rate is renegotiable after the
first five years.
The motion was
amply debated by members on both sides of the House, notably by Leader of the
Opposition, Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal, and Hon. Mark Vanterpool, Hon. Paul Wattley,
Hon. Julian Fraser and other members. Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering highlighted
the fact that the order of the day included a statement by Hon. Alvin
Christopher outlining what is being done with the Stevens Land plan: “and you
see the Minister of Finance already putting a system in place to ensure that the
individuals who will be the beneficiaries of that land will also have an
approach with which they can move forward. So, we are trying to do things in a
way that is organised and structured to help our people.”
In wrapping up
the deliberations before putting the motion to the voting test, Hon. Skelton
said that he will make sure that the Development Bank will become more
efficient: and in fact “the bank has some challenges that need to be fixed
before this financial institution goes to the next level,” he said.
SOCIAL SECURITY LAURELS
Chief Minister added that the bank’s performance during the last three years
indicates that steady progress is being made. Mr. Skelton further noted that the
BVI Social Security Board is a model for the entire Caribbean “and probably the
The motion was
passed. First time home owner have now the opportunity to borrow up to $125,000
at a rate of 9 per cent per annum. “The mortgage scheme has been very beneficial
to people of this Territory and we shall make every effort to make the resources
available to continue the scheme,” Mr. Skelton said.
of Finance pointed out that the passing of the motion brings Government’s debt
obligation to $97,809,837, while the contingent loan liability (Government’s
guaranteed loans to statutory bodies and corporations) stands at $37, 012, 558.
Virgin Islands Social Security Board was established by an act of the
Legislative Council No 17 of 1979. It did not come into effect until July 2nd
Security Board comes under the portfolio of the Minister of Finance, Hon. Ronnie
Skelton. The Minister appoints a Board of seven. The Board is responsible for
the management of the Scheme. The Act specifically charges the Director with the
responsibility for the management of the funds, in particular the collection of
the contributions and the payment of benefits. In the case of loans to a
statutory body (such as the Development Bank of the V.I.) the loans can only be
made after the Legislative Council has passed a resolution giving its approval
for the making of the loan and the government of the BVI is the guarantor of
every loan so made.
As of December
31st, 2003, the BVI Social Security Board attained in excess of $200M in
investments. This is comprised of $64M in CDs, $93M in fixed income, $12M in
loans, $13M in managed assets and $1.8M in fixed assets.
DEVELOPMENT BANK’S PERFORMANCE
At the end of
2002 the Development Bank of the Virgin Islands had total assets for $54
Million, and cash investments at $14 Million. Despite global economic slow down,
during the same year customer deposits grew at a phenomenal rate of 26 per cent
or $10 Million surpassing the previous year’s growth rate of 22 per cent to end
the year at a high of $36.8 Million. To give an idea of the growth of this local
financial institution the reader should consider the following facts: in 1988
deposits were $245,000 and in 1997 about $15 Million — in 2002 almost $37
Million. The Development Bank of the V.I. is wholly owned by the BVI government.
The principal activity of the 30-year-old bank is to provide loans for the
social and economic development of the Territory.
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