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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Housing chief backs bill to facilitate property ownership for CDBG-DR applicants

By The Star Staff

Housing Secretary William Rodríguez Rodríguez said Thursday he supports legislation in the island House of Representatives that would create an expedited process for Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program applicants to obtain ownership of the properties damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the 2020 earthquakes.

Federal agencies do not provide economic assistance to repair damages to homeowners whose properties are unregistered.

Rodríguez appeared at a public hearing of the lower chamber’s Housing Committee on House Bill 1063, presented by the New Progressive Party delegation. The bill would establish the “Law to Expedite the Processes Under the Title Authorization Program Attached to the Department of Housing, to Assist Those Affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the Earthquakes of 2020.”

“This is a bill that does social justice to the poor people of Puerto Rico,” Rodríguez said. “Bill 1063 is a cutting-edge bill, a bill that brings many positive changes for Puerto Rico and for low-income people, who are the ones we seek to serve.”

The measure proposes to implement special procedures in the Property Registry by creating an expedited process of domain filing, resumption of tract and purchasing prescription before notaries. Those actions, in accordance with the proposed bill, seek to streamline the administration and efficient use of Puerto Rico’s recovery funds.

Rodríguez said that out of 1 million applications, 60% of the families were denied assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency because of some matter related to the ownership of their residences.

“There are many, but we have an incredible opportunity in terms of having the resources to deal with this situation, and what we need is this additional tool [the bill] that allows us to streamline the processes, because the funds will not be there forever,” the Housing chief said. “They have an expiration date, and we must use them to the maximum in order to benefit this sector in particular.”

Rodríguez affirmed that, since its implementation, the Title Program has seen its progress restricted by different factors: the existence of parties, such as known or unknown heirs, whose whereabouts are unknown; the lack of permits issued by the Permit Management Office that enable the necessary measurements; and the evolution of the process aimed at obtaining the property title into a contentious one.

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