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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Governor defends public housing chief’s handling of rental assistance funding surplus

Public Housing Administrator Alejandro Salgado Colón

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Wednesday described as pragmatic the decision by Public Housing Administrator Alejandro Salgado Colón to return $60 million from the federal Emergency Rental Assistance program in exchange for $45 million to build 160 units of public housing.

“Some criticize for the sake of criticizing,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “In other words, what I saw in the report itself is that more people were served than the federal government estimated we were going to serve. They estimated that we were going to serve 55,80 people and more than 80,000 have already been served. What happens in Puerto Rico is that our market is different. The rental market, rental fees in Puerto Rico are substantially lower than in the states. That is why a greater amount was allocated than was actually … going to be disbursed. So, what Mr. Salgado has done, and he explained it very well, is to go ahead and establish an agreement that, yes, disburse 75% of the funds that we had, that we have, that we have received in a second round, which allows a large part of those funds that you say are returned to be given another use. Then we can build rental housing, which would then be available to the same population.”

“I find Mr. Salgado’s position very pragmatic. The only criticism I saw that they say is that more should have been announced, but I know that it was announced in the media constantly and what has happened in both the first round and the second is that a lot of people have been served, more than the federal government expected,” Pierluisi added. “But again, it is that the fees are not so high and that is why the [full] amount allocated is not consumed. As Salgado explained to El Nuevo Día, the determination is a strategy aimed at accelerating the pace of spending that allows reaching 75% of the obligation – of the totality of the $240 million from the American Rescue Plan Act – in order to receive the remaining 25% of the funds for the development of housing for rent.”

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