ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz is the founder and principal of the architectural firm Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón, with offices in Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
As Puerto Rico continues to slowly rebuild after the last devastating natural disasters, we need to focus our efforts towards sustainable and rapid economic recovery.
Taking advantage of the federal programs available for the safe and resilient reconstruction of the Island, is the best way to quickly activate our economy. These are the financial resources available if you’re interested in housing projects or planning programs that will accelerate Puerto Rico’s recovery.
1. CDBG-DR FUNDS
The Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG – DR) Program is responsible to assure decent affordable housing opportunities, provision of services, assistance to those most vulnerable in our communities, career opportunities and the conservation of jobs.
This program is funded by the Disaster Recovery Program for community development of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to grant support disaster recovery activities, including housing redevelopment and rebuilding.
The Department of Housing of Puerto Rico has been designated as the entity responsible for administering this grant that will help in the recovery from disasters caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. This includes long-term recovery, restoration of housing, economic infrastructure, and revitalization.
2. CDBG-DR FUNDS FOR PLANNING
The following section groups the CDBG-DR programs that have a focus on planning for Puerto Rico’s recovery:
MUNICIPAL RECOVERY PLANNING PROGRAM
The Municipal Recovery Planning Program (MRP) Program allocates funding to municipalities to carry out planning activities that address conditions created or worsened by Hurricanes Irma and/or María. Planning activities will conclude in Municipal Recovery Plans serving as guidance to developing more resilient communities within the 78 Municipalities of Puerto Rico.
MRP will complement other programs by identifying projects, programs and policies necessary for recovery, as well as increasing communities’ funding and their capacity to forecast and assign applicable needs to promote: city revitalization, critical infrastructure recovery, economic development and workforce training.
WHOLE COMMUNITY RESILIENCE PLANNING PROGRAM
The Whole Community Resilience Planning (WCRP) Program seeks to create recovery solutions for future natural events by increasing individual and collective preparation and ensuring greater resilience at a community and national level.
Eligible entities can apply for program funding to support the development of local planning efforts that produce actionable Community Resilience Plans (CRPs) to support the goals identified by their community and define projects that can be implemented to increase their resilience.
AGENCY PLANNING INITIATIVES PROGRAM
The Agency Planning Initiatives Program creates and builds property data sets across Puerto Rico, in order to ensure that land use is properly permitted, planned, inspected, secured and visible to municipalities.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY PLANNING PROGRAM
The Economic Recovery Planning Program creates strategies for job creation through advocacy and communication, efficient public service delivery, business creation and public investment.
HOME RESILIENCE INNOVATION COMPETITION PROGRAM
The Home Resilience Innovation Competition Program develops an energy innovation competition to provide solutions to address the generation and storage of renewable energy.
3. CDBG-DR FUNDS FOR HOUSING
The following section groups the CDBG-DR programs that have a focus on developing affordable housing for the most vulnerable populations on the Island:
HOME REPAIR, RECONSTRUCTION, OR RELOCATION PROGRAM (R3)
The R3 Program aids eligible homeowners to repair damaged homes or rebuild substantially damaged homes by hurricanes Irma and/or Maria in non-hazard areas.
Eligible homeowners with substantial damage who are located in hazard zones (situated in a flood plain, floodway, or areas vulnerable to landslide), will be offered relocation assistance to a safe dwelling. Every relocation will be voluntary.
RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The Rental Assistance Program responds to the urgent need to assist elderly, low-income individuals with risk of homelessness as consequence of loss of funding for the Law 173 Program. The program provides rental assistance to residents of that are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
HOMEBUYER ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The Homebuyer Assistance Program (HBA) helps Puerto Ricans purchase homes through a variety of support mechanisms, thereby increasing the level of homeownership in impacted communities and contributing to long-term sustainability and viability of communities across the Island.
The HBA Program supports income-eligible, first-time homebuyers with financial assistance to be used towards the down payment and closing costs/eligible prepaids of a new home.
TITLE CLEARANCE PROGRAM
The Title Clearance Program provides assistance for households lacking clear title for their properties and legitimizes homeowner titles in areas impacted by the hurricane, therefore providing sustainability and security to residents.
SOCIAL INTEREST HOUSING PROGRAM
The Social Interest Housing Program (SIH) funds non-profit organizations who are committed to providing Social Interest Housing and work with vulnerable populations (homeless people, domestic violence victims for example) to ensure accessibility of housing to individuals with a wide-range of socioeconomic, physical, and emotional needs.
The Program seeks to expand existing housing to increase the number of vulnerable individuals to decent, safe, and sanitary conditions and in compliance with all applicable construction codes and health and safety standards in disaster impacted areas.
CDBG-DR GAP TO LOW INCOME HOUSING TAX CREDITS PROGRAM (LIHTC)
The CDBG-DR Gap for Low Income Housing Tax Credits Program (LIHTC) provides gap funding for properties being developed with low income tax credits.
The program’s funds encourage the construction and/or rehabilitation of multifamily and/or elderly affordable rental housing by providing gap funding to increase other public and/or private financing for the affordable rental housing units under the LIHTC Program, administered by PRHFA.
HOUSING COUNSELING PROGRAM
The Housing Counseling Program provides counseling services for people affected by hurricanes Irma and/or Maria, as well as educational services to promote understanding of housing and financial options.
Individual counseling and group courses provide education on budgeting, credit protection, foreclosure prevention and more relevant information.
COMMUNITY ENERGY AND WATER RESILIENCE INSTALLATIONS PROGRAM
The Community Energy and Water Resilience Installations Program provides homeowners or tenants with a voucher for gas or solar-powered water heater, and/or gas stove, and related facilities in the event of power failure.
MULTI-FAMILY RECONSTRUCTION, REPAIR, AND RESILIENCE PROGRAM
The Multi-family Reconstruction, Repair, and Resilience Program supplies funding for necessary expenses related to long-term recovery and restoration of multifamily housing, and supports code compliance updates in existing buildings.
Without the help of federal government funds and subsidies for acquiring land, building, operating, planning, and maintaining affordable housing, Puerto Rico’s recovery will be extremely challenging, if not impossible. That’s why these funds are essential in order to create resilient communities and rebuilding the Island. Making good and efficient use of these funds, will help Puerto Rico and our communities quickly.