Letter from Our Chairman

Dear PRBA Member:

We hope that you and your family are well and taking the necessary measures to stay healthy in the midst of the difficult situation we are facing.

After the 2017 hurricanes, and the earthquakes of January 2020, the Puerto Rico Builders Association (PRBA) has constantly called for reinvention and resilience. Today, we urge you to reflect on the different challenges that we face as a country.

The latest challenge brought forth by COVID-19 at a global level has led us to evaluate the need to strengthen and reinforce our actions at the family and community levels, so that the steps we take allow us to reinsert ourselves into the new norms and styles of coexistence. These types of events are the ones that give us the opportunity to analyze our vision, as well as outlining the actions that we must implement in new ways of doing business.

In the midst of the uncertainty that this new reality has brought, the PRBA continues to actively work with an internal task force outlining strategies that allow us to establish ourselves, in a safe way, as active collaborators in the quick recovery of the economic and social sector of our island.

Our Chairman actively participated in meetings with the Governor to represent the PRBA and contribute with solutions for this time of change.

As part of our efforts, we have been in direct and continuous contact with government authorities, providing them with recommendations at the short- and medium-term levels for the benefit of our industry, our members and Puerto Rico. In several communications efforts, the PRBA shared a series of suggestions with the Hon. Wanda Vázquez Garced, Governor of Puerto Rico, aimed at implementing strategies that guarantee the well-being of our members, as well as of all the families whose livelihood depends on the controlled reactivation of the activity on the construction industry. These suggestions include:

Construction

  • Classify outdoor construction projects as critical infrastructure.
  • Issue an administrative order to exempt construction projects from the ordinary process of obtaining certified permits to be presented to the OGPe or Autonomous Municipalities for a three-month period, in accordance with the agreement in Article 7 of Law No. 76-2000, as amended, known as the “Law of Procedures for Situations or Emergency Events.”
  • Exempt applications for construction permits from the presentation of the permit and the duty fee payments, when complying with the following:
    • Categorical Exclusions as evidence of environmental compliance.
    • Documents (plot plans and specifications) certified by a licensed engineer or architect, as disposed by the Certification Law.
    • Preparation of certified inspection reports required during the construction stage.

Mortgage Closings

  • Make it viable for mortgage closings to be performed remotely by authorizing the following:
    • Notary at a distance, using the available telecommunication methods without the face-to-face requirement.
    • Authorize the appraisers’ visit to those properties up for inspection, respecting the social distancing measures.
    • Authorize for the mortgage closing to be performed remotely so they don’t have to be face-to-face, or they can take place following social distancing measures.
    • Allow payments in real estate transactions to be electronically processed.
  • Extend the benefits of Law 216 of 2011, as amended (no CRIM payments, no stamp payments, etc.), for a period of five years.
  • Make viable the inscription of those sales and purchases at the CRIM through virtual methods.

Design Evaluations

  • Government agencies must continue with the evaluation of those projects in the design stage that have yet to be certified. It could be done remotely, to avoid stopping the development of new projects.

IVU (sales tax) and B2B

  • Continue with the exemption in the collection of the IVU and B2B for certified projects.
  • Exempt certified projects from excise payments.

Legislature

  • We recommend that the Executive and Legislative branches work together in the search for alternatives so that many of the companies that are already facing a difficult economic situation can continue operating during and after this crisis, and so that their employees can keep their jobs.

Efforts with the Federal Government

  • It is necessary for the Government of Puerto Rico to request waivers with the pertinent agencies that allow, among other things:
    • Raise the FHA up to 225% of the limit, as it happened back in 2008, for a period between 2 to 3 years.
    • Abolish the 72-hour period for the HUD disclosure.
    • Eliminate concentration risk from FHA requirements (delinquency, among others) in condominiums.

In the midst of this health emergency, we have also aimed to keep active pressing issues that affect our members. We have participated in several meetings with government representatives and members of professional organizations to address with a sense of urgency those issues that remain in the pipeline and which affect us directly.

Meetings with Resident Commissioner

  • We recently met with the resident commissioner, the Hon. Jenniffer González, who has heard our concerns on the state of the construction industry and the handling of the economic stimulus packages granted by the federal government.

Meetings with the Department of Housing

  • To that end, we have also met with the Secretary of Housing, Luis Carlos Fernández, and Dennis González, PE, Department of Housing undersecretary, to delve into the measures taken to ensure the continuity in the use of the CDBG-DR funds, in addition to reactivating the conversation on our concerns about the new hurricane season.

Meetings with Representative Antonio “Tony” Soto

  • We participated in several meetings with representative Antonio “Tony” Soto to discuss the need to abolish the Tax on Inventory. This is in addition to the actions taken in conjunction with the Private Sector Coalition to join efforts aimed at supporting our membership as well as small- and medium-sized merchants.

NAHB

  • In addition to the efforts made at the government level, we have been collecting information in meetings with organizations at the national level, such as the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). This will give us the opportunity to carry out an in-depth analysis on the impact that the novel COVID-19 situation will bring to our industry and the actions that have been taken in different states to manage the results that this crisis brings. This will help us identify strategies and protocols we can implement in the management of future situations at the local level. At the same time, we are focusing our efforts so that in the midst of this crisis we continue to build in a safe, efficient and resilient way.

Dear member, we will continue directing our efforts to outline the necessary strategies that will ease the way we do business during this crisis, and which allow our industry to be reaffirmed as one of the economic pillars of our island, during times like the one we are facing today.

Be safe!

Alfredo Martínez-Álvarez, Jr.
Chairman of the Board


 

 

 

Recent Workshops and Actions

Workshops

The Requirement Guidelines for Housing Vouchers Under the CDBG-DR R3 Program
In March we celebrated a workshop about the CDBG- DR funds with the Department of Housing Undersecretary, Dennis González, PE, and Doel Muñiz, PE, Director for the CDBG-DR.
Dennis González, PE, CDBG-DR Program Undersecretary, and Alfredo Martínez-Álvarez, Jr., PRBA Chairman.
National Green Building Standard (NGBS) Certification Orientation

Last month, Michelle Foster, vice president of sustainability for the Home Innovation Research Labs, and Steven Armstrong, expert on green building science and accredited verifier for the National Green Building Standard (NGBS Green) traveled to the island to present a seminar about the NGBS Green Building Certification.

Alfredo Martínez-Álvarez, Jr., PRBA Chairman, along with workshop speakers Michelle Foster, Home Innovation Research Labs Vice President; and Steven Armstrong, expert on the Building Science and Accredited Verifier for NGBS Green.

Public Hearings

Waleska Rivera, PRBA Board Treasurer (at the bottom right), presented a speech about salary equity.

Salary Equity  – Download the speech presented by Waleska Rivera, PRBA Board Treasurer: Salary Equity Speech | March 10, 2020

Regulations Under Act No. 73 of 2019 – Download the speech presented: Regulations Under Act No. 73 of 2019 | March 12, 2020

Letters

PRBA’s Position Regarding Project 2428

Download letter sent to Senate and House of Representatives: Letter to Senate and House of Representatives | March 18, 2020

PRBA’s Position Regarding the Executive Orden Under the COVID-19 Situation

Download letter sent to Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced: Letter to Governor | March 24,2020

 

 

PRBA’s Response to COVID-19

We’re focused on supporting the local community by providing accurate information and resources from public health officials during this challenging time.

Given the new situation that we are all experiencing globally due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), we want to highlight the World Health Organization (WHO) advices.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IS A TOP PRIORITY

  • Wash hands frequently or use alcohol-based hand rub. Always wash with soap and water when hands are visibly soiled.
  • Refrain from touching your nose or mouth, which are common routes of contagion.
  • Avoid crowds and limit your visits to closed spaces with people.
  • Avoid handshaking and other forms of physical contact.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 3 feet from any individual who is showing respiratory symptoms (e.g., coughing or sneezing).
  • If you do have symptoms such as coughing, sneezing or having difficulty breathing, the recommendations are:
  • Wear a face mask, in case you are infected, to prevent further disease spread.
  • If not wearing a mask but coughing and sneezing, cover your nose and mouth with your flexed elbow or a paper tissue, then dispose of the tissue and wash your hands.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Dry cough
  • Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.

These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

MYTH BUSTERS

  • COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates.
  • Taking a hot bath does not prevent the new coronavirus disease.
  • The new coronavirus CANNOT be transmitted through mosquito bites.
  • Thermal scanners are effective in detecting people who have developed a fever (i.e. have a higher than normal body temperature) because of infection with the new coronavirus. However, they cannot detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with fever.
  • Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth). Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.
  • Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus.
  • The new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.
  • To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
  • The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is low.

RESPONSIBILITY OF THE TRAVELER

It is prudent for travelers who are sick to delay or avoid travel to affected areas, in particular for elderly travelers and people with chronic diseases or underlying health conditions. General recommendations for personal hygiene, cough etiquette and keeping a distance of at least 3 feet from persons showing symptoms remain particularly important for all travelers. These include:

  • Perform hand hygiene frequently, particularly after contact with respiratory secretions. Hand hygiene includes either cleaning hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub. Alcohol-based hand rubs are preferred if hands are not visibly soiled; wash hands with soap and water when they are visibly soiled.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a flexed elbow or paper tissue when coughing or sneezing and disposing immediately of the tissue and performing hand hygiene.
  • Refrain from touching mouth and nose.
  • A medical mask is not required if exhibiting no symptoms, as there is no evidence that wearing a mask – of any type – protects non-sick persons. However, in some cultures, masks may be commonly worn. If masks are to be worn, it is critical to follow best practices on how to wear, remove and dispose of them and on hand hygiene after removal.

STAY HOME, STAY HEALTHY

We encourage our members and the local community to stay home to take the proper precautions to prevent the virus from spreading and causing devastating effects. We support the Executive Order and are counting on you to support it as well. Please stay home and stay healthy.

La ACPR insta a los cuerpos legislativos de Puerto Rico y a la Gobernadora a no dar paso a proyectos que vayan en detrimento de la estabilidad de las empresas de la Isla en tiempos de emergencia

La Asociación de Constructores de Puerto Rico (ACPR) instó al Senado de Puerto a desistir de todo proceso para dar paso y desistir de continuar el trámite del PS 1538, con o sin enmiendas. De igual forma, exhortó a la Gobernadora de Puerto Rico a vetar el PC 2428 que propone establecer la imposición de una licencia laboral adicional, en momentos en los que las empresas no pueden absorber tal impacto.

La ACPR denunció que la obligación impuesta a los patronos privados, de pagar salarios durante la emergencia, sin haberse trabajado, incluida en ambos proyectos de ley, es una medida irrazonable e injusta contra las empresas locales que luchan por sobrellevar esta crisis y mantener la actividad económica que genera empleos y da sustento a miles de familias. Dichas medidas son dañinas e innecesarias, no establecen excepciones para las pequeñas y medianas empresas y no toman en cuenta las medidas tomadas por el Congreso de Estados Unidos, que incluye beneficios y mecanismos que hacen innecesarias e inaplicables las medidas locales que pretenden tomarse.

“Hemos recibido información que apunta a la intención de reconsiderar el PS 1538 en el Senado y hemos escuchado a uno de sus autores expresar que trabajarán para enmendarla. Nuestra Asociación hace un llamado al Senado de Puerto Rico a no insistir en la aprobación de un proyecto lesivo para el sector privado y que atenta contra la capacidad de las empresas para preservar empleos y reanudar operaciones, una vez se controle la crisis. Por su parte, la Cámara debe mantenerse firme en el rechazo a la medida”, expresó el presidente de la ACPR, Alfredo Martínez-Álvarez, Jr.

“De igual forma, exhortamos a la Gobernadora de Puerto Rico a impartir un veto al PC 2428, que pretende imponer una carga y trabas irrazonables a las empresas del sector privado, en una coyuntura en la que el gobierno federal ya ha legislado y establecido un marco uniforme y sensato para compensar a los trabajadores, lo que hace innecesaria esta legislación local”, añadió el líder de los constructores.

La Asociación, además, urgió a la Asamblea Legislativa y a la Gobernadora a identificar fondos de emergencia y de otras fuentes del gobierno para ayudar a personas y empresas a lograr la estabilidad, seguridad y certeza durante la emergencia.

Women in the Construction Industry

During International Women’s Month, the Puerto Rico Builders Association (PRBA) congratulates all women in Puerto Rico, especially those who have decided to enter non-traditional careers that have long been led by men, such as the construction industry. The PRBA prides itself on having in its Board of Directors valuable women who dedicate their lives as leaders, contributing their talents, energy, creativity and wisdom to make Puerto Rico a better place.

 

Vanessa de Mari-Monserrate

Licensed Architect, Real Estate Broker; Development Department Manager, F&R Construction Group, Inc.; President, F&R Management Services, LLC; Vice President, Urbañus Development, Inc.; Vice President, PRBA Board of Directors

 

“Women in the construction industry are an important voice that breaks barriers, they’re an engine of growth and balance. Climbing to the top can be hard for any human being, however we face obstacles that make the path to leadership a real challenge that with persistence, effort, and optimism can be overcome”.

 

 

 

 


Waleska Rivera

CEO Danosa and Treasurer of the PRBA Board of Directors

“Women in construction open the door to greater opportunities and alternatives for other women, increasing labor participation, thus contributing to the economic development of Puerto Rico. Women in construction have an important role to play as an example to others who are interested in positions in the sector increasing labor participation and thus to economic development.”

 

 

 

 



Wilma Z. Alejandro Ramirez

Relations Officer, Banco Popular of Puerto Rico; and Past Treasurer and Member of the PRBA Board of Directors

 

“Women in construction have managed to combat the gender stereotypes and have successfully integrated into an industry historically dominated by men. As a businesswoman and banker for more than two decades, I have had the joy of having excellent mentors who have seen me as their ‘peer’ and have boosted my career without making me feel different for being of the opposite sex. My passion goes far beyond being a woman, it is the opportunity to provide a family with a safe roof and contributing through my experiences to the economic development of my country.”

 


María de los Ángeles Rivera

CPA; Tax partner and International Business Center Director; PRBA Board Member; and Past President of the Tax Affairs Committee

“Women react differently when assessing risks. This provides balance in decision-making time when evaluating and reacting to risk in the construction industry.”

 

 


Victoria “Vicky” Colón

Executive Vice President, Mutual Development Services Corp., and PRBA Board Member

“Women in construction persevere. We are tasked with a ‘bigger’ purpose than most, which is neither swift or easy. Our imperative as women in construction is to pave the way for our daughters by creating an environment where limitations no longer exist, dreams are unlimited and achievements aren’t tripped with obstacles. We must move them to ‘lean in’, as Sheryl Sandberg urges us. And when they do so, they must do it with purpose, courage, honor, love and empathy.”

 

 

 

 



Nydin M. Watlington Castro, Esq.

Public Affairs & General Counsel, CEMEX of Puerto Rico, Inc. and Member of the PRBA Board of Directors

“Women in construction bring new approaches that promote diversity of thought, inclusive leadership and equity in the progress of an industry that has historically been dominated by the male gender.”

 

 

 

 

 

First Luncheon of the Year

At the end of February we celebrated our first luncheon of the year –a full house event– with much excitement and honor.

Luis C. Fernández Trinchet, Secretary Department of Housing

The luncheon started with the main speaker, the recently designated Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Housing, our friend and collaborator Luis Carlos Fernández Trinchet.

We also received a visit from four other colleagues and friends, who have been committed to the reconstruction of Puerto Rico since day one: Greg Ugalde, Immediate Past Chair of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB); Ed Brady, President and CEO of the Home Builders Institute; Paul Lopez, Senior Vice President of Communications for the National Association of Home Builders; and our great friend Dean Mon, Chair of the NAHB and a New Jersey-based builder and developer with more than 30 years of experience in the home building industry, also NAHB’s 2020 chairman of the board of directors.

 

Dean Mon, Chairman NAHB

Chairman as special guest on panel at the CCPA’s XII Forum of the Construction Industry

The Puerto Rico Builders Association’s Chairman, Alfredo Martínez-Álvarez, Jr., participated as a special guest of a panel to deepen a presentation given by the economist Gustavo Vélez: “Economic Perspectives of the Construction Industry for 2020, Election Year”, during the Colegio de CPA de Puerto Rico’s (CCPA) XII Forum of the Construction Industry. Umberto Donato, president of the Association of General Contractors of America, Chapter of Puerto Rico and Mr. Juan F. Alicea Flores, president of the Colegio de Ingenieros y Agrimensores de Puerto Rico were also part of the panel.

Partnership among the PRBA and the U.S. Census Bureau

The Puerto Rico Builders Association (PRBA) met with Maritza Padilla, Supervisory Partnership Specialist, U.S. Census Bureau, and Estela Roque from VMLY & R, to discuss the importance of participating on the Census. A partnership was established between the PRBA and the 2020 Census to help raise awareness among the local citizens regarding the value of completing the Census questionnaire, for federal funds to be distributed to the island.