Citi Community Development and four Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved housing counseling organizations announced today an initiative to provide urgently-needed housing assistance in Puerto Rican communities affected by Hurricane María, the company announced.
Supported by $500,000 in funding from Citi Community Development, the four participating housing organizations — Puerto Rico NHS, Ponce Neighborhood Housing Services, Pathstone and One Stop Career Center of Puerto Rico — will collaborate with municipalities and community leaders to target some of the island’s hardest-hit communities.
Residents are currently in need of a broad spectrum of assistance that will be addressed through this initiative, including financial assessments; connections to local resources; and consultations on mortgage forbearances, insurance claims and FEMA applications.
In addition, this initiative will directly support the reconstruction of homes by making repairs to doors, windows, and roofs damaged by the storm.
“I’d like to thank Citi for teaming with four outstanding Puerto Rican organizations to help in this ongoing time of crisis,” said Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. “Housing is one of the most fundamental and pressing needs and this support will help many families receive the assistance and funding required to rebuild and get back on their feet.”
The initiative will help thousands of families across the Commonwealth recover from the devastation of the storm by securing housing solutions and providing essential housing services, such as support for home repairs, free housing counseling, and other vital recovery resources, to renters and homeowners alike.
“Months after the storms have passed, thousands of Puerto Ricans are facing displacement and deep financial instability, with few, if any options to turn to for assistance,” said Bob Annibale, global director, Citi Community Development and Inclusive Finance.
“By partnering with trusted, locally-based housing organizations, we are able to provide access to vital counseling, repairs, and other housing support services to assist hundreds of Puerto Rican families as they begin to stabilize and rebuild their homes and their lives,” he said.
Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017 — two weeks after Hurricane Irma — leaving behind massive devastation to vital infrastructure, property and homes, estimated at $95 billion.
“Thank you to Citi for helping our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico. Housing is the glue that helps hold a family together and this effort will provide desperately needed resources to jumpstart their road to recovery,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY).
In some communities, 80 percent to 90 percent of homes were completely destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of housing units across the island were severely damaged, often leaving low-income families particularly hard hit.
Thousands of Puerto Ricans were displaced to shelters, and many forced to stay with family members or move into hotels, while more than 300,000 have relocated to the U.S.
Research conducted by Enterprise Community Partners shortly after the storm estimated that more than 150,000 (roughly 10 percent) of homes will need to be rebuilt, and tens of thousands will need to be repaired.
“During nearly 100 years in Puerto Rico, Citi has strived to support the development and progress of all of the Commonwealth’s communities,” said Guillermo Gomez, Citi’s chief officer for Puerto Rico.
“This new investment will ensure residents, especially those living on lower incomes, get the housing support they urgently need, and is a further demonstration of Citi’s commitment to Puerto Rico and its ongoing recovery and renewal,” he said.
At the time of the storms, Puerto Rico was already in a decade-long economic recession, with nearly half of residents living below the poverty line; according to a recent survey conducted by the Census Information Center at the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey, the poverty rate could potentially reach 59.8 percent given the length of recovery.
Organizations to rebuild
Collectively, the organizations aim to serve an estimated 2,000 individuals and families, and will also support the reconstruction of nearly 100 homes. In addition, PathStone will provide assistance to more than 85 small business owners whose businesses were badly damaged and whose incomes have been severely disrupted.
Blanca Vélez-Beauchamp, Executive Director, Puerto Rico, N.H.S., Corp. said, “After visiting our facilities impacted by Hurricane María, and assessing the priorities and needs of our communities, we started by providing them with comfort — hugs, water and food — and showing them they were not alone and that we were there to help.”
“To start offering our help, we needed committed partners who could understand the anguish of our people, and we went to Citi — our partner for 23 years. Immediately, Citi showed their commitment to help us. Our community needed many things, but the most urgent were roofs and houses where they could re-establish their homes,” she said.
Construction of safe roofs and stable houses has started for three of the 20 Comunidad Alto El Cabro families impacted by the hurricane.
“In difficult times, it is when we demonstrate our commitment and dedication,” said Elizabeth Rivera, executive director, Neighborhood Housing Services.
“Ponce NHS has been hand-in-hand with affected families and communities in the south and central areas of the island during this time of crisis. We have offered humanitarian relief, housing counseling, foreclosure prevention and other services that have defined our organization for the past 24 years,” she said.