Enterprise Community Partners, U.S. Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority, the University of the Virgin Islands and NeighborWorks America Announce Local Resilience and Disaster Recovery Workshops 

Free workshops focused on building resilient homes and communities in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) help tenants, owners, governments and communities prepare for the realities of a changing climate

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS (March 2, 2020) – Building Resilient Homes and Communities in the USVI, a 3-hour workshop to be held in St. Croix on March 4 and St. Thomas on March 6, will provide guidance to homeowners, community leaders, tenants, housing program administrators, property operators and construction professionals on resilient housing design and construction practices that could enable homes and communities to adapt to and be protected from extreme weather events. The workshops will also help participants understand how federal money will be allocated for mitigation planning. 

Using Enterprise’s recently released housing resilience and disaster recovery manual Keep Safe: A Guide for Resilient Housing Design in Island Communities as a learning tool, Enterprises’ Disaster Recovery and Rebuilding team will deliver the workshops as part of its Climate Strong Islands Initiative, hosted in conjunction with the U.S. Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority, the University of the Virgin Islands and NeighborWorks America

“Enterprise created Keep Safe in collaboration with local partners to help inform how housing is designed and constructed to withstand a volatile and changing climate,” said Laurie Schoeman, senior national program director for resilience and disaster recovery at Enterprise Community Partners. Many island communities like Puerto Rico and the USVI are on the front lines of these changes and will need to continue to find ways of adapting to the climate reality we are facing—a windier, rainier and hotter future that will affect water and energy systems, food supplies and building sites. We are eager to use this guide to inform the development of a more equitable and just world where all residents have a baseline of safe housing, energy, water and food.” 

Throughout the workshops, participants will also learn about updates to the territory’s disaster recovery and mitigation plans and programs and be invited to join a community discussion on activities, challenges and opportunities related to recovery and resilience in the USVI.

“The Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority is happy to partner with Enterprise Community Partners to bring this resiliency workshop to life. Since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, we’ve learned a lot about what it means to prepare for a natural disaster and how to react to a major event,” said Antoinette Fleming, VIHFA Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery Director. “We’re now in the recovery stage and making sure the residents of the Virgin Islands are aware of what goes into building resilient communities and that it’s important to our growth and sustainability as a territory and economy.”

Gregory Guannel, director of the Caribbean Green Technology Center at the University of the Virgin Islands added: “In an era of increasing climate uncertainty and with the looming threat of devastating natural hazards, it is important that communities invest in resilient practices. The University of the Virgin Islands and the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency are actively working on a Territory-wide resilience plan, but the community and household conversation must happen at the same time. This event is a great opportunity to ensure that risk reduction strategies are comprehensive and inclusive of the community’s vision.”

Keep Safe, developed in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria as part of Enterprises’ Climate Strong Islands Initiative (CSII), will be used during the workshops to highlight specific resilience strategies and local resources. Enterprise will launch a digitized, interactive version of the manual on March 4 as part of its USVI resilience program to provide easier access to this first-of-its-kind resource on disaster recovery. 

CSII was developed by Enterprise and local partners in the USVI and Puerto Rico in the wake of the devastating 2017 hurricane season. CSII is designed to bring together community leaders and organizations committed to equitable and resilient long-term recovery in island communities to address community and infrastructure needs and create opportunities for low-income families to thrive. 

“We are pleased to co-sponsor and participate in these events to better learn and understand how we can assist the U.S. Virgin Islands as they continue to recover from the recent storms,” said Joanie Straussman Brandon, regional vice president, Northeast Region, NeighborWorks America. 

Some of the most impactful and unique recommendations to be discussed during the workshops include:

  • Strategies to promote Passive Habitability when a home loses power to enable residents to stay in their homes
  • Strategies to promote renewable energy generation and storage, safe rainwater capture, safe septic waste treatment and community resiliency hubs.  
  • Site-specific strategies that utilize vegetation and green infrastructure in addition to the standard grey infrastructure most commonly used to mitigate flooding

The workshop in St. Croix will be held on Wednesday, March 4 from 9am to 12pm at the University of the Virgin Islands in the Great Hall of Albert A. Sheen Campus in Golden Grove. The workshop in St. Thomas will be held on Friday, March 6 from 9am to 12pm at the Hibiscus Room at Emerald Beach Resort, 8070 Lindbergh Bay. Space for both workshops is limited and advance registration is required. 

Register for the workshop in St. Croix on Wednesday, March 4, at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KeepSafeStC

Register for the workshop in St. Thomas on Friday, March 6 at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KSSTTHOMAS

About Enterprise Community Partners
Enterprise is a proven and powerful nonprofit that improves communities and people’s lives by making well-designed homes affordable and connected to opportunity. As a social enterprise, we bring together policy leadership, partners, donors and investors to multiply the impact of local affordable housing development. Over more than 35 years, Enterprise has created 585,000 homes, invested more than $43 billion and touched millions of lives. 

About NeighborWorks America
For more than 40 years, Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp., a national, nonpartisan nonprofit known as NeighborWorks America, has strived to make every community a place of opportunity. Our network of excellence includes nearly 250 members in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. NeighborWorks America offers grant funding, peer-exchange, technical assistance, evaluation tools and access to training, as the nation's leading trainer of housing and community development professionals. NeighborWorks network organizations provide residents in their communities with affordable homes, owned and rented; financial counseling and coaching; community building through resident engagement; and collaboration in the areas of health, employment and education. In the last five years, our organizations have generated more than $40 billion in investment across the country.

About U.S. Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority
The Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) was established in 1981 to address the existing shortage of low- and moderate-income housing in the United States Virgin Islands. The VIHFA develops programs to create an adequate supply of affordable housing to meet the needs of low- and moderate-income families in the Territory. The Agency aspires to be the premier self-reliant housing and community development agency fostering sustainable communities in the Territory.

About University of the Virgin Islands
The University of the Virgin Islands’ mission is the only institution of higher learning in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is an accredited HBCU offering excellent undergraduate and world-renowned graduate education to more than 2,500 students from the U.S. Virgin Islands, the United States and other islands in the Caribbean.

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