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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

House passes several measures that address economic, social justice concerns

Rep. José “Cheito” Rivera Madera

By The Star Staff

The island House of Representatives passed several measures related to social justice and the economy last week.

Given the lack of housing available for rent in Puerto Rico, the House passed legislation Thursday that seeks to create a registry of rental properties with data and profiles of both landlords and tenants.

House Bill (HB) 1331, authored by the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. José “Cheito” Rivera Madera, obtained 28 votes in favor and 19 votes against.

The bill also aims to guarantee government aid and programs to assist people going through an eviction process due to the inability to pay rent. According to the measure, in 2021, there were 700 evictions on the island.

“Not having a registry of private homes available for rent makes it difficult to determine if Puerto Rico has a rental crisis,” the bill reads. “Likewise, it hinders the planning of projects and the development of areas.”

The Housing Department is the government agency in charge of properties in Puerto Rico. Although the agency manages public housing and special communities, it must ensure sufficient private properties to rent as an essential part of the available housing supply, the bill reads.

Lawmakers also approved HB 548 to establish that new or remodeled residences in Puerto Rico are resistant to the inevitable passage of major storms. The homes would also have alternative electricity and drinking water supply methods.

The measure, filed by PDP Rep. Ángel Matos García, seeks to create the Safe and Resistant Home Law and order the Permit Management Office to update the Puerto Rico Construction Code.

Meanwhile, HB 1470, a bill establishing caps for single-family and multi-family housing, passed in the lower chamber. The measure also seeks to vary the administrative adjustment mechanism and establish a moratorium on the payment of impact fees for projects or phases of projects that begin construction on or before Dec. 31, 2025.

With 29 votes in favor and 17 against, the House also endorsed HB 1498 to transfer former Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) employees to jobs at municipalities. The workers had been transferred to positions in government agencies.

PDP Rep. Kebin Maldonado Martiz introduced the measure in October after mayors hired former PREPA employees and retirees to restore power service after the passage of Hurricane Fiona.

“We prudently understand that these former PREPA employees who were assigned to government entities serve the country better by being assigned to the Municipalities of Puerto Rico,” the bill reads.

The workers will preserve all their rights and obligations.

Lawmakers also passed HB 1311, which would amend the “Law for the Prevention of and Intervention with Domestic Violence,” or Act 54, to recognize economic violence as a form of domestic violence.

“Although Act 54 includes economic violence in its definition of psychological violence, the reality is that the absence of an express reference in the law allows the courts to refuse to recognize clear instances of domestic violence,” stated a report filed by the Women’s Affairs Committee.

Examples of economic violence in the context of domestic violence include the nonpayment of rent or mortgages, the exclusive control of financial accounts, threats of eviction, or the cutting off of essential services.

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