Tags: Hurricane Irma | Hurricane Matthew | puerto rico | squatters | need federal aid | housing

Puerto Rico's Tens of Thousands of Squatters Add to Hurricane Aid Problems

Puerto Rico's Tens of Thousands of Squatters Add to Hurricane Aid Problems
Damaged homes, some covered with tarps provided by an NGO, stand in an area without electricity on October 15, 2017 in San Isidro, Puerto Rico.   (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By    |   Sunday, 31 December 2017 09:26 AM

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is seeking federal help with its tens of thousands of squatters who’ve been living on abandoned or government land for generations, Politico reported.

“We have a big problem,” Toa Baja Mayor Bernardo Márquez García told Politico, estimating of his city’s 26,000 homes, 9,000 are illegal. “Before Hurricane Maria hit, we didn’t know we had so much informal construction.”

Politico reported that with no legal claim to their homes or the land they’re built on, squatters have no access to federal aid, and Democratic Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has proposed giving 48,000 illegal settlers legal title to their land, a plan that could cost up to $30 million.

“Before the emergency, it was something we needed to do; now it’s a more ambitious project,” Puerto Rico Housing Secretary Fernando Gil told Politico. “It would be helping out 48,000 people who thought that they couldn’t get any help.”

In Toa Baja, damage from Maria is an estimated $300 million, and Marquez said the community as a whole will have to decide if squatters ultimately should be moved.

“Most of the areas that were flooded were squatters, but they’ve been there for 40 or 60 years, for generations,” he told Politico. “They were given facilities, utilities. They’ve built a community, they have a social fabric.”

Politico noted that at best, Puerto Rico’s municipal leaders have taken an ad hoc approach to the squatters, who call themselves “rescatadores.”

“It’s something that is the fault not only of the person doing the construction and the person who needs a place to live, but also the mayors and senators and even ex-governors, that they allowed it to happen,” Gil told Politico. “There are years and generations of people in these communities.”

Winning federal aid to fix the problem will require political muscle — and could be a test for Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who visited Puerto Rico in December.

“We do recognize that the situation is different here than it is in Texas or Florida or many places,” Carson said, Politico reported. “We want to look at the goals, not the rules.”

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In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is seeking federal help with its tens of thousands of squatters who've been living on abandoned or government land for generations, Politico reported."We have a big problem," Toa Baja Mayor Bernardo Márquez García told Politico,...
puerto rico, squatters, need federal aid, housing
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2017-26-31
Sunday, 31 December 2017 09:26 AM
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