By Melissa Zayas Moreno
Special for News is my Business
Gov. Luis Fortuño signed Thursday an executive order creating a committee to implement public policy for housing that calls for working with federal housing officials to make better use of funds.
The committee — which will now implement the so-called “Puerto Rico: State Plan 2011-2015” strategy — will pick up where the interagency housing group created last year left off, including spending some $42 million identified for housing.
“The new plan is a new way of doing business, and the lessons and results obtained from it will benefit communities through the rest of the United States,” the governor said.
The order was signed during the Puerto Rico Bankers Association 19th Housing Forum, which gathered scores of public and private sector housing executives for a day-long agenda of workshops.
So far, the committee has identified $42 million in funds that had been assigned to Puerto Rico, but were nearly lost, Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Mercedes Márquez said during her presentation just prior to the governor’s keynote speech.
“Each federal program has a deadline and if that money wasn’t used, it would have caused worst problems. The time limit to make use of those funds was of 18 months, but they were recovered,” she said.
The “Puerto Rico State Plan 2011-2015” will incorporate different agencies including HUD to achieve an integrated focus to address the island’s housing necessities, particularly of the working class that lives near public transportation systems, senior citizens and the homeless. Agencies will identify and reuse land that belongs to the government, as well as draft long-term projects that could be funded with the recovered money.
Through the executive order, the HUD will have a more prevalent role in terms of implementing local housing plans, Fortuño said. In addition to providing oversight for the program’s implementation, HUD will become an active participant, providing technical assistance to improve program performance and better meet the needs of each family.
HUD officials will continue working with all 78 municipalities to identify future housing strategies, government officials said.