The distribution of $ 150 million in federal funds in vouchers for the purchase of houses can represent an important boost for the economy, while offering middle-class workers the opportunity to acquire their own home and deepen their roots in Puerto Rico.
If supported by federal Housing authorities, this initiative would provide up to $ 50,000 to families and individuals who - despite having a job - do not have enough income to affort, for example, the closing costs of the purchase of a property.
It is aimed at a population segment whose contributory responsibility does not translate into the quality of life that they aspire for their family and, therefore, they are likely to move to the mainland. The government proposes to prioritize police officers, teachers and nursing professionals, among others who attend emergency situations. Anyone with an annual income of up to $ 42,200 could apply for these funds.
The proposal could help resolve the imbalance in Puerto Rico between a high need for housing and a significant number of unoccupied residences. It has the potential to do socioeconomic justice and fosters a culture of work, instead of encouraging public benefit. Based on data from the census, it is estimated that about 72 percent of the inhabitants of the island would be eligible for the program.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must evaluate the request of the government of Puerto Rico, in light of compliance with the federal legal framework and the need of the island to venture into sustainable models of housing investment.
To maximize its impact, this initiative requires a comprehensive development plan that equitably distributes mobility opportunities throughout the island.
Taking advantage of part of the funds to repopulate urban centers responds to a proposal reiterated by many sectors. It involves revitalizing commercial, professional and service activities to add value to the participants. Well planned, it can even reduce the need for many workers to travel long distances. This results in a better quality of life and environment.
It is necessary to clarify, however, the detail of the eligibility criteria for the incentives, derived from the second package of funds allocated to the Department of Housing through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program (CDBG-DR). It is important that the units available in urban centers that have old structures comply with the current building codes.
The government said that it will require that participants remain owners of the property for a ten-year period. This restriction increases the chances of the incentive paying off.
It is important that the criteria for voucher allocation be supported by clear data and analysis. Rigor and transparency about the use of federal funds are essential. The federal government has imposed mechanisms that seek to ensure its responsible use.Within the margin of discretion left, the local government has to avoid arbitrariness.
Citizen participation and oversight are also essential. The government's proposal is subject to public consultation until October 21. The participation of citizens has the potential to strengthen the plan. In this effort, the Third Sector has a platform to guide and hear the voices of those with the least access.
Banking, construction and real estate sectors, have welcomed the measure anticipating a new air for industries hit hard by the hurricanes and the economic and fiscal crisis of the last decade. The well-being and efforts of those who, even if they try hard, have not managed to get out of the cycle of poverty, have to be ensured.
Having come into the second phase to receive the allocated federal items, we trust that the process will lead Puerto Rico to recover population, vitality and optimism to rise on innovative and responsible bases.
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