As Virgin Islanders are pushed to explore the use and development of their homes and properties in an effort to increase and diversify the territory’s ability to accommodate a greater number of incoming visitors, Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley has admitted that this must coincide with the necessary legislative push to protect the availability of affordable housing for renters in the territory.
Premier Wheatley noted that despite the territory having a notably high level of land ownership, it cannot be denied that a large number of residents find long-term accommodations on rental properties.
That is why, the premier noted, with the incoming Trade Commission a Fair Tenancy Act is in the works.
“The Trade Department actually with the new incoming Trade Commission, they have a number of policies and a number of pieces of legislation which will be on the way and one of these pieces of legislation that we will be developing in the short term has to do with a Fair Tenancy Act. Of course, it will be a big debate and a discussion but we can’t be afraid of the tough topics here in the Virgin Islands and this is for me what leadership is about,” he said.
Dr. Wheatley went on to note that the availability of affordable housing is the responsibility of the government.
“Government has the responsibility as well, you see around the world, in terms of helping to create affordable housing for individuals that will not become like slums and not become run down… These are things that we have to tackle. We have to tackle affordable housing. We know some efforts were made in terms of the Joe’s Hill projects with Social Security but we know that’s also going to be quite expensive… We have to continue to work at it,” he said.
The premier explained that in the process of developing this piece of legislation, it will be necessary to engage a wide range of stakeholders including landlords, tenants and community leaders to ensure that adequate input is gathered.