"Transparency is important for us and we have the books open," said Gil Enseñat at a press conference at the Housing Department headquarters in San Juan. (Xavier J. Araújo Berríos)

The Office of the Comptroller will conduct an special audit on Tu Hogar Renace (Your Home Reborn) program to verify multiple complaints associated with the temporary repairs made to houses affected by Hurricane Maria, which hit the island almost nine months ago.

Yesterday, Fernando Gil Enseñat, Secretary of Housing, revealed that they have received about 3,884 complaints of program participants, reporting incomplete work, inspection problems and thequality of work or materials used, among other matters.

"Transparency is important for us and we have the books open," said Gil Enseñat at a press conference at the Housing Department headquarters in San Juan.

He remarked that pre-audit details will be discussed next week in a meeting with comptroller Yesmín Valdivieso.

The 3,884 complaints represent 6 percent of the houses with work orders issued. A quarter of these citizens complaints have been addressed, said Gil Enseñat.

94 percent of the participants have not filed complaints or the work in their residences have not been completed.

The official revealed yesterday that only 25,000 of the 110,000 applications approved to join the program have been completed. That is, only 23 percent of the work in homes has been completed.

The expectation is that within the next 119 days (by October 2) the repair of about 85,000 homes will done, completing  the initiative that provides temporary repairs for  houses to be habitable. Currently, all expenses are paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). However, by September 15, the financing system will change to a shared costs one between state and federal governments.

Gil Enseñat explained that they are speeding work up so that investment from state funds or funds from the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program (CDBG-DR) would be minimal.

However, to meet the September 15th goal, Housing Department contractors must complete, on average, about 833 homes per day. The repairs involve a $9,000 average investment.

When the initiative was created, they estimated that repairs, on average, would entail a $ 20,000 investment per residence. As less money per home has been invested, despite the increase in construction materials costs reported in recent months, more families have been accepted  into the initiative, said Gil Enseñat.

The secretary made no connection between the complaints and the speed sought to complete the work. The official said that during the first three months they have repaired the same number of homes that were built in a year in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In fact, the Department of Housing cancelled one of the contractorsdue the delay in repairs,said Gil Enseñat. In total, there are seven companies -mostly  American owned- working on houses repairs.

Given the complaints about the program, these companies created a customer service program to address the problems detected.

According to the Secretary, if the work is not completed as agreed, people should not give the final endorsement to the repairs.

He noted that the instruction is that, if the contractor did a bad work, he must return and do it properly, especially if it is a situation that threatens the residents safety.

To complain, participants can call to (787) 675-4480 or express their concern in the Tu Hogar Renace program website.

According to Housing estimates, about 300,000 residences were affected by the hurricane. Out of these, about 60,000 were total loss.

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