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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Governor on effects of short-term rental boom: Constitution protects private property rights

By The Star Staff

At a time when the hoarding of properties by investors is causing housing shortages in Puerto Rico, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, whose son has the most short-term rental properties in San Juan, said Tuesday that the government must respect an individual’s use of his private property.

This week, the Puerto Rican Independence Party charged that an individual investor is purchasing residential properties in Río Piedras, most of which are used by students, and significantly increasing the rent paid by longtime residents.

“They are private properties, and the government has to respect private property. The Constitution requires it,” the governor told reporters.

“Here in Puerto Rico, there is a Constitution that requires respect for private property. The owner of a property has the right to sell it, and the one who buys it [has the right] to use it as long as it is in accordance with the law and regulations,” he added.

Nonetheless, there is an increasing number of people hoarding properties to use them for short-term rental, a situation that has resulted in increasing long-term rental and property prices that are displacing the middle class and the poor. The Río Piedras urban center of San Juan, near the University of Puerto Rico’s flagship campus, has 30 units being used for short-term rental.

Currently, San Juan is the city with the most short-term rentals at 3,800, according to data obtained by Norberto Quiñones Vilches, a data analyst working in the mainland U.S. Most of these properties are in coastal areas or tourism areas such as Old San Juan. Carolina has 1,842 short-term rentals, most of which are in Isla Verde. Naguabo, another coastal town, has 74 properties but Quiñones Vilches said it is growing. Humacao, meanwhile, has 400 units, Fajardo 700 units, Luquillo 800 and Río Grande 1,000.

Anthony Pierluisi, one of Gov. Pierluisi’s children, controls much of the short-term property rental business in San Juan where his firm West Indies Vacation Rentals has 88 properties, Quiñones Vilches noted.

The short-term rental boom is causing a housing shortage and hike in prices. Other firms that have taken over the short-term rental market in San Juan are: The Dream Catcher with 36, Dream Inn PR and La Esmeralda PR with 32 each, Qastle with 27 and Mok Properties with 25.

The island Legislature has yet to approve bills that could help ease the housing shortage.

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