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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, June 26, 2022


An inter-agency Housing Authority task force should announce specific plans next week for relocating approximately 1,000 people from the Donoe housing community so it can be demolished.
The 85 buildings that make up the community have been perched on the hillside overlooking Weymouth Rhymer Highway since the early 1970s. They are designed to hold 296 families, with an average family size of four.
The units at Donoe have not weathered time or hurricanes well.
"We don’t believe at this point it’s providing adequate housing for the rent we’re charging," said Housing Authority executive director Conrad Francois.
It would be "cost-prohibitive" to repair the structures. So instead, they will be scrapped and the residents will be moved primarily to private housing that will be subsidized by the Housing Authority through federal funding. All participating properties must pass inspection.
Large families will end up in other public housing communities, Francois said, because few private rentals offer five bedrooms or more.
Although the Virgin Islands has long had a housing shortage, Francois said that he is getting good response to advertisements seeking private rentals and that over the past two years 47 families already have moved from Donoe.
"We’re in a soft real estate market right now," he said.
The Housing Authority, under a federal program, will pay "fair market value" in the private sector. That translates to $500 to $1,000 a month for anything from an efficiency to a four-bedroom.
The resident is required to pay 30 percent of his or her adjusted gross income; the government picks up the rest.
The trend for the last few years in federal housing programs has been towards locating people in the private sector, according to Francois.
He said the authority will begin relocating Donoe residents in January and put the demolition out for bid in April or May. Cost is estimated at $2 million to $4 million – all provided by the federal government.
As a public corporation, the Housing Authority owns the land on which the Donoe community is built, Francois said.
"It’s our intent to redevelop that property on a less dense basis," mixing straight subsidized rentals with home ownership programs, he said. But no concrete plans are in the works and the authority has not yet secured the necessary federal funding.
Right now the authority is concentrating development efforts on a 36-acre piece of land in Hoffman-Nullyberg behind the Church of God of Prophecy off Weymouth Rhymer Highway.
Using federal money for the replacement of the Warren E. Brown apartments, which also were razed because of their poor condition, the Housing Authority has a request for bids out to build 176 units there.
Once that project is in hand, it will turn its attention to redeveloping Donoe, Francois said.

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