Español The wait is over! Virgin Islands homeowners can NOW participate in the program that AARP and its Visitability Coalition partners worked so hard to make available.
In 2011 the Visitability Coalition was thrilled when Governor John P. DeJongh signed Act 7320, the Virgin Islands Visitable Design and Incentive Act, which opened the door to making homes structurally designed or refitted to accommodate persons in wheelchairs. But, passing the legislation was only phase one of the battle.
Phase two involved working with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to achieve a comprehensive set of program rules, regulations, applications, and permits. In addition, various government agencies, for example, the Tax Assessor’s Office, needed to be educated about the program, its benefits and most importantly, what documentation would be required from taxpayers in order to be granted the 20% reduction in property taxes for a period of 10 years.
In late-October, Senator Shawn Michael Malone, the Bill’s original sponsor issued a press release indicating that all the details, which had stalled the program’s implementation, had been finalized and the Visitability program was ready to go!
Now that you can take advantage of the program, let’s review what it involves. The purpose of upgrading to “visitable” status ensures that you will have access to your home as you age. It includes 3 major things: 1) no-rise entrance to your front door, 2) a doorway entrance not less than 36 inches wide and 3) a handicap accessible bathroom on your home’s first floor.
The Visitability program makes homes accessible not only for persons as they age, but also for anyone with a mobility challenge. As Senator Malone so aptly stated in his press release, “we all must be mindful of the fact that anyone of us could become disabled without warning and that it behooves us as a community to build more dwellings that conform to these standards. i
For information on how you can participate in the Visitable Housing Design and Incentive Program please contact the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Division of Building Permits on St. Croix at 773-1082 or on St. Thomas at 774-3320.