More than 3,500 homes still have blue tarps as hurricane season begins
By John McPhaul
Despite the receipt of federal funds and after almost five years since Hurricane Maria passed through the island, more than 3,500 homes remain with blue tarp roofs, as identified by Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia.
The governor made his comment at a press conference following a meeting with heads of agencies ahead of the Atlantic hurricane season, which starts June 1.
“The real number and the secretary [of Housing] has it, is around 3,500 temporary tarp roofs … that number has been changing because they are being dealt with and what we want is for there not to be one,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “The ones that remain are because many times the particular home is located in a flood zone, it does not have a property title, and it is difficult to get federal aid in those conditions, but both Housing and ODSEC, the two entities have an effort in progress to reach all those blue tarps.”
Housing Secretary William Rodríguez maintained that “during last year, the end of last year and this year, we were visiting each of those blue dots that added up to more than 19,000 locations, where they were visited by department staff and nonprofit organizations that helped us make this effort.”
“What we saw on the ground, we also validated together with ODSEC and we currently have the figure, after we have been, as the governor rightly mentions, actively working on the issue of the blue roofs, not only us, but also non-profit organizations and other municipal government agencies,” he said. “Which brings us today to the sum of 3,646 locations with blue roofs that are already included as part of the blue roofs program that will be served, one and all.”
The official added that “this is voluntary, right, whoever does not want to, well, we are not going to take care of it, but each of these families is going to be taken care of, we are going to eliminate the blue tarp and they are obviously going to have a much better home, better than the one they had before.”
“This is not replacing the roof, period. This is taking them to decent housing, housing under the standards of the federal Housing [and Urban Development] Department,” Rodríguez said. “So, all these families, the ones that are of interest, are going to be shocked and when we visit them, we leave information, we are in the process of advancing what is going to be the work that is going to be done in each one of these homes, so that eventually they can enjoy better housing than the one they had before Hurricane Maria.”