Second Blueprint Conference – Affordable Housing in Times of Crisis: Lessons for Puerto Rico

On November 5, 2019, CNE convened a panel of local and international experts today for a dialogue on housing policy in post-disaster contexts. The event, titled “Affordable Housing in Times of Crisis: Lessons for Puerto Rico”, was the second conference organized by CNE’s Blueprint Initiative, which hosts knowledge exchanges between scholars, policy practitioners, and other stakeholders interested in housing and land use policy in Puerto Rico.

The event featured:

Shaun Donovan, former US Housing and Urban Development Secretary
Irma N. Torres Suárez, legal advisor to the Cooperative League of Puerto Rico
Carmen Melero, former Vice President at Popular Mortgage and Principal at Banco Popular de Puerto Rico
Michelle Sugden-Castillo, urban planner and consultant
Elora Lee Raymond, Assistant Professor in the School of City and Regional Planning at Georgia Tech
Vincent Reina, Assistant Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania

Taking the state of reconstruction as a starting point, the speakers asserted that the current phase of Puerto Rico’s post-disaster recovery will be defined primarily by the urgent need for housing. Federal funding, such as the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds, will be instrumental in crafting policies that can address the impact of the storms on the island’s affordable housing stock while safeguarding the social fabric and financial stability of vulnerable communities, according to the panelists.

The experts also discussed underlying affordability problems that preceded the hurricanes, many of which can be traced back to the 2008 housing market crash. These include a mismatch between the large amount of empty housing units and the unmet demand for affordable housing, as well as lengthy waiting lists for public housing and Section 8 benefits.

CNE’s Blueprint initiative seeks to define a path forward for housing and land use in Puerto Rico by producing actionable research and hosting productive conversations and knowledge exchanges on issues of land ownership, accessibility, and safe housing. These efforts serve to collectively develop a comprehensive and inclusive housing and land use framework that addresses the complex needs of Puerto Rico’s reconstruction process.

See some of the key moments of the conference below.
Click to watch Part 1 and Part 2 of the conference.