Chairman’s Message | December 2020

Dear PRBA members,

In light of the great number of challenges we all have been facing, at the Puerto Rico Builders Association, we have maintained our firm commitment and dedication, to our members and with Puerto Rico. We have done it with the same enthusiasm that has characterized our Association throughout its 69-year history.

Within this framework, we recognize the hard work done by our Board of Directors and by the members of the different work committees. We have all overcome technological challenges to maintain an active profile in different areas and fulfill our mission.

Of the several activities that we have carried out this last year, we highlight the work meetings with the Governor and her Advisory Council; with USDA Rural; with Admiral Peter Brown; with members of the White House, the United States Congress, and the Resident Commissioner in Washington. We have also held constant meetings with members of the local Senate and the House of Representatives, with representatives of the Housing Department at the federal level as well as the Puerto Rico Housing Department, and with FEMA officials.   With the objective of strengthening our strategic and collaborative alliances we also met with the National Association of Home Builders, the Urban Land Institute, and the Habitat for Humanity International organization.

At the same time, we highlight the work of our members, who have been protagonists in the discussion of important issues for the country, such as the allocation of CDBG-DR funds, the designation of Puerto Rico as an Opportunity Zone, the legislation for service administration, the need to recruit personnel for construction and the importance of the private sector in the recovery of Puerto Rico.

During the course of the year, we have also held over 10 workshops on important topics for our Association, such as the CDBG-DR workshop with the R3 program and housing vouchers, to the webinar with ULI Florida / Caribbean “Bringing Critical Manufacture Back to the US-Puerto Rico” that we did last August.

2020 has been a year full of challenges for all of us, and as an effort to defend our industry we took several steps to address important issues for our sector. Among those steps are the following:

  1. The PRBA created an internal Coronavirus taskforce in a way to collaborate with the government and highlight the construction as essential to business. At the same time, we were part of the Economic taskforce appointed by the Governor and we prepared a document with protection guidelines against COVID-19 which was used by the Governor as an example when reintegrating the construction industry personnel into their jobs.
  2. As a result of the hard work performed by our Housing Committee, led by Rafa Rojo, the Puerto Rico Housing Department addressed the concerns and suggestions provided by our organization, to simplify the design requirements and other dispositions of the Homebuyers Assistance Program under the CDBG-DR.
  3. After more than a decade of efforts to modernize and update the Condominium Law, altogether with other private sector organizations, we succeeded by achieving the adoption of a new law.
  4. The PRBA took part in the approval process of the legislation that provides credits, relief and more flexibility to those private sector companies in some of the contributive processes as a result of COVID-19.
  5. We participated in the process of revision and adoption of the new Qualification Maps and the discussion of the New Joint Regulation of the Puerto Rico Planning Board.
  6. We actively participated in the discussion and public hearings at the Puerto Rico House of Representatives and Senate on issues that are considered a top priority for our association such as the Municipal Code, the amendments to the Internal Revenue Code, Construction Code, infrastructure and permits.
  7. We were able to present in conjunction with the Private Sector Coalition, before a representative of the White House, the situation that we are facing in Puerto Rico related to the Section 8 vouchers for Public Housing, the urgency of the allocation of CBDG-DR funds for those affected by the earthquakes, the classification of the whole island of Puerto Rico as an Opportunity Zone and the need to increase the 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) that subsidizes the acquisition, construction and rehabilitation of rental housing for low and middle-income persons.
  8. We have published the magazine “Tiempo de Construir” with great success.
  9. Long before the election process concluded, the PRBA reached for all of the gubernatorial candidates and presented them with ideas and proposals to address the construction industry concerns and to provide them with recommendations in a way to position Puerto Rico towards economic development and sustainability.
  10. The PRBA mediated before Gov. Vázquez- Garced in a way to achieve the suspension of the Executive Order 2018-033 which raised the minimum per hour wage of the construction industry workers to $15.00

At the PRBA we are grateful for the commitment of our Board of Directors, our members, and all of those whose contribution has made possible the achievement of each goal established amidst all the challenges we all have faced this year from earthquakes to a global pandemic.