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CNE estimates damage to unrepaired homes in Puerto Rico post-hurricanes at $11.8B

The Center for a New Economy’s (CNE) Blueprint initiative presented a digital platform that helps identify and monitor the extent to which Puerto Rican families and households have been able to overcome the damages to their homes after Hurricanes Irma and María.

Official government reports indicate that about a third of the housing units in Puerto Rico suffered significant damage.

The CNE estimates that the current pending housing needs in Puerto Rico is currently about $11.8 billion, CNE Research Director Deepak Lamba-Nieves said.

“The Housing Reconstruction Monitoring Dashboard is an interactive and dynamic tool that provides detailed data, at the municipal level, on damage to homes and investments in reconstruction related to Hurricanes Irma and María,” said Lamba-Nieves, who developed the digital tool with Raúl Santiago-Bartolomei, CNE Research Fellow and Professor at the Graduate School of Planning of the University of Puerto Rico.

“It includes all available federal and state government aid. CNE’s calculation tries to get closer to a coherent estimate of how much assistance is still needed and in which communities,” said Lamba-Nieves.

CNE calculated the pending housing needs using the following formula: Pending Housing Needs = Estimated Housing Damages for the Uninsured – Post Disaster Housing Assistance.

Pending housing needs are the net result of estimated uninsured housing damages, which were calculated using data from the Individuals and Households Program (IHP), minus all investments made through federal and local home repair and reconstruction programs (i.e., FEMA IHP, “Tu Hogar Renace,” U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Loans, and the Housing Department’s Home Repair, Reconstruction or Relocation Program (R3)).

CNE estimated that the damage to homes caused by the hurricanes was more than $18.5 billion. This estimate was calculated using public data from FEMA IHP inspections and adjusting the damages calculated by FEMA, to avoid underestimating the total repair costs, with the most conservative multiplier used by the government of Puerto Rico of 6.96.

This figure calculated by the CNE researchers is much lower than the one estimated by the Housing Department ($37.7 billion) because it only estimates the financial requirements to achieve reasonable repairs for the islands’ homes, he said.

“Of those $18.5 billion in damages, pending housing needs are estimated at $11.86 billion or more than 64% of the need,” he said during a presentation of the dashboard that is available to any interested person or entity.

Santiago-Bartolomei added that “the dashboard that we present is a monitoring and transparency tool that helps inform decisions for a better planned reconstruction. This can inform where there is the most need and therefore where resources should be invested. Furthermore, it can be used by communities and municipalities to support their claims to increase investments in their communities.”

For example, Habitat for Humanity Puerto Rico has a home repair and reconstruction program. The nonprofit has supported the development of this tool which will become a key resource for their team to make decisions regarding which municipalities to target given the needs identified with this tool, he said.

Pending housing needs are not the same throughout Puerto Rico. There are places where more help is needed. According to the analysis, the municipalities with the most unmet needs are San Juan, Ponce, Bayamón and Canóvanas. Fajardo, Las Piedras and Gurabo are the municipalities closest to meeting their housing needs after the disaster, while Culebra, Vieques and Maricao are lagging.

All the data used to build the tables and visualizations that make up the digital tool, and those contained in the report, are public. These initial analyses provide a clearer picture of the ongoing housing reconstruction process.

“As new programs emerge and investments increase, CNE will update the digital tool and continue to monitor the reconstruction,” Lamba-Nieves said.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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