Families began moving in to the Calabash Boom townhomes, above, last week after a Wednesday morning, October 27, official key ceremony.
After more than a decade of work, the first two families moved into affordable townhomes at Calabash Boom last week.
About 30 people gathered in the shade on the Calabash Boom Townhomes property on Wednesday morning, October 27, for an official key ceremony honoring the first two families to call the area home.
“Homeownership is the first step toward building wealth,” Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen, who was among the dignitaries at the event, told the crowd. “This is a beautiful day and not just because of the sun, but because of what is happening here today. These two families now have an opportunity to experience the American dream.”
“I look forward to encouraging more people to join you,” Christensen said. “While this is the first time affordable homeownership has come to St. John, I will make it my mission that it won’t be the last.”
With land prices and property taxes skyrocketing in recent years, St. John needs affordable housing more than any other island in the Virgin Islands, explained Senator at Large Craig Barshinger, who also attended last week’s key ceremony.
“The mission of the V.I. Housing Finance Authority is more critical here than on any other island in the Virgin Islands because we need them the most,” said Barshinger.
The 24 new townhomes that were recently completed was the final phase of the project, joining 48 rental units which are already occupied. While the V.I. Housing Finance Authority came up against a number of barriers in the 16-year history of the project, the agency was committed to seeing affordable homeownership on its Calabash Boom property, explained VIHFA executive director Clifford Graham.
“Back in 2008, we stood here and had a ground breaking ceremony,” said Graham. “Back then we thanked the many people and government agencies who came to our assistance during 16 years of bringing this to fruition. There were many setbacks, but today we’re here to honor the new homeowners who will make these buildings their homes.”
The three-bedroom, one and-a-half bathroom townhomes are located along South Shore Road across from Johnson Bay and were constructed by Reliance Housing Foundation, which was also the group behind Bellevue Village on Gifft Hill Road. Through tax credit units and other sources of funding, the townhomes are being sold for $295,000 with additional subsidies available to bring that cost down even further, according to Graham.
Each unit is two stories with 1,314 square feet of space and boasts a second story balcony. There is also a spacious community center and a small playground on the property.
In addition to V.I. Police Department, V.I. Fire Department and Department of Public Works officials, banking and insurance personnel, who were instrumental in helping the first families obtain mortgages, also attended the ceremony.
“We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for our friends in the industry from Banco Popular and Scotiabank,” said Graham. “As these homeowners can tell you, once you are through with closings you must get insurance. So we also thank our friends at Executive Insurance and all of the agencies who helped us get to this point.”
The project has done more than simply construct buildings, according to Barshinger.
“We haven’t just created buildings here, but a community,” said the senator at large. “We always say it takes a village to raise a child and here we are with the opportunity to create that village. Once the secret gets out about this place, it will turn out to be the best place to live on St. John.”
After speeches from dignitaries and musical selections by Shikima Jones and members of the Julius E. Sprauve School choir, the two families who closed on their units were handed keys to their new homes last week. Magabe Calixate and Samuel and Vencilia Mathews were all smiles as they accepted gifts and, finally, the keys to their front doors.