Social-Interest Housing Summit Yields Results
Nonprofi ts Help Acquire, Rehabilitate Banks’ Repos
BY JOSÉ L. CARMONA
In conjunction with Citi Foundation’s Urban Transformation on Affordable Housing project, the nonprofit Puerto Rico Community Foundation (PRCF) held in November the island’s first-ever summit that gathered local financial institutions, government agencies and the island’s community housing development organizations (locally known as Chodos) to promote social-interest housing on the island.
While the topic of social-interest housing is nothing new to the PRCF—as it has been working with the issue for the past 20 years— Citi Foundation’s new focus on affordable housing opened the door to retake the topic and place it front and center, David Haddock, PRCF’s vice president of programs & administration, said to Caribbean Business.
Citi Foundation’s Urban Transformation on Affordable Housing program seeks to acquire and/ or rehabilitate abandoned or repossessed homes.
“Using Citi Foundation’s program as a guide and funds from PRCF’s Community Investment Fund, the organization organized the summit, or junte, of financial institutions and nonprofit organizations that had a single goal of acquiring and rehabilitating unused properties priced below $75,000 in the local banks’ portfolios, to find opportunities,” Haddock explained.
The event featured several Chodos dedicated to the rehabilitation of social- interest housing such as One Stop Career Center, Indesovi and Ponce Neighborhood Housing services.
There are 34 U.S. Housing & Urban Development (HUD) certified Chodos on the island, of which 14 are currently active. They have built 6,000 housing units, assisting 16,071 low-income individuals, investing a total $243 million, including public and private funds.
“On one side of the table you had the Chodos, which explained their experiences, expertise and opportunities in the affordable housing field, while on the other end you had representatives from HUD, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, San Juan’s HOME program, National Development Council, Fidevi and Enterprise Community Partners presenting their private and public offerings,” Haddock said. “Different working groups were created to align the offers with the opportunities and establish collaborative agreements.”
Also at the summit were representatives from Banco Popular, Scotiabank Puerto Rico, First- Bank, Banco Santander Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Housing Department and the Puerto Rico Housing Finance Authority, among others.
The summit’s goal was to identify 14 housing units to be acquired and rehabilitated and make them available for social-interest housing, whether for rent or sale, and the group ended up closing in on 29 units.
DIRE NEED FOR HOUSING
Back in 2014, the number of repossessed properties in local banks’ portfolios amounted to 10,000 units, although that number has since diminished due to investment groups buying portfolios of distressed properties at different financial institutions, noted Álida Rivera, PRCF director of community affairs.
“For us, this opportunity provided by Citi Foundation inserted us back again in the affordable housing issue, while providing another opportunity for housing development on the island, as federal funds have been dwindling and could disappear in the future,” Rivera said.
According to data provided by the PRCF, there are more than 120,000 families on the island that share the same household; 110,000 housing units deemed deficient; 29,792 individuals on a waiting list for public housing; 3,400 homeless individuals; 18,500 homeowners about to be foreclosed; 14,000 new low-income homeowners to be formed in the next five years; and as the number of new homebuyers diminishes, 10,000 rental units will be needed in the local market.