Summary of the Steps Taken During 2019 – Government, Legislature and other Private Organizations

Dear Members,

We hope that you, your families, and your employees are well and safe. We live times of uncertainty that require us to be calm, organized and prepared with communications and emergency management plans.

We begin the new year with the commitment to serve you and continue working for the construction and housing industry. We are honored to have you as part of our Association, and you are the ones who make our work possible.

Here’s a summary of the steps we’ve taken during 2019 with the Government, the Legislature and other private organizations:

Legislative 

We moved forward in issues that are relevant for our membership, such as the following:

  • Puerto Rico Incentives Code: The Legislature addressed Puerto Rico Builders Association’s (ACPR) proposal to reinstate the housing investment requirement for eligible investors under Act 22. (The provision was part of the original law, but an amendment eliminated it later.) The requirement, advocated by the Association, was reinstated by the Treasury Commission, led by its President Antonio “Tony” Soto.
  • The ACPR succeeded including precise requirements for the eligibility of housing projects in the decrees of the said Code, to stimulate and incentivize the construction of new housing. Simultaneously, we addressed critical issues related to incentives applicable to tourism projects.
  • Construction Code: Our leadership addressed the Legislature’s concerns and worries about the effectiveness of construction codes to ensure the sound construction of housing and other buildings. Within this context, we consistently advocated the position that the Codes Revision Committee, along with OGPe, should revise the Code.
  • The ACPR asked the Legislature to adopt the received and paid method for the Sales and Use Tax (IVU) on construction materials. Doing so would help the liquidity and operation of construction subcontractors who are vital for the construction services chain, such as cement ready-mix companies and other sectors of the industry. This bill, which was vetoed by the current Governor, will be submitted again to the Legislative Assembly with the support of ACPR. We hope it will be considered favorably by madame Governor next time.
  • Funds for the DMO: The ACPR led the defense of a more significant allocation of funds for the DMO to strengthen the promotion of the visitor economy and tourism activity in Puerto Rico. We will resume this effort with new initiatives to help provide resources to this entity and strengthen the tourism promotion strategy.
  • The ACPR consistently and actively advocated, both in Puerto Rico’s legislative and executive branches and in Washington, D.C., for the repeal or amendment of Executive Order 2018-033, which increases the minimum salary of construction employees.
  • Housing Stimulus Program: We will continue to work for the extension of the Housing Stimulus Program, an incentive program that has been very useful for the new construction housing market.
  • The ACPR played a vital role in the adoption of guides and agreements with the federal government to help Puerto Rico receive CDBG-DR funds, to support the critical process of reconstruction and recovery. We met with government officials in the U.S. capital, Congressional leaders, and executives from the National Association of Home Builders, who have been supportive and great collaborators of our Association.
  • Department of Housing: During 2019, we held monthly meetings with officials from the Department of Housing to present our recommendations for the CDBG-DR Action Plan.
  • Condominium Law: we continued working for the approval of a Condominium Law in tune with today’s reality.
  • We insist on the need to address the problem of limited income and its effects on people’s access to decent and safe housing.
  • We established two partial scholarships for members to participate in the Guayacán Venture Accelerator.
  • In alliance with Bisnow, we organized two events to promote investment in Puerto Rico: one in Miami and the other one in New York City.
  • We collaborated with Enterprise Communities to create and publish a resiliency manual for the construction of new housing in Puerto Rico.
  • We anticipate that the Municipal Code will pass during the current, and last, Legislative session. The ACPR has already submitted recommendations about the measure, following the analysis and revision of the Legislative Committee led by attorney Cristian Bernaschina, and we’ve had conversations and meetings with the advisors and technical team of the Commission in charge. Nevertheless, if you have additional recommendations or comments, please send them to the Association for analysis and proper action. Once approved by the Senate, the House of Representatives will evaluate it.
  • Regarding the Civil Code, the measure should be approved soon in the Senate, following its approval in the House. About this measure, we ask you to urgently send your comments and recommendations to refer them to the Commission in charge, discuss them and defend them before the legislative bodies.

The ACPR has been actively testifying in public hearings and meeting with legislators.

  • We participated in a meeting with Governor Wanda Vázquez and with cabinet secretaries to share our concerns and recommendations regarding:
  • The Electric Power Authority, which can affect the projects of our associates and particular business situations of our members
  • Office of Management and Permits (OGPe)
  • Planning Board
  • Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC)
  • Tourism Company

Also:

  • We’ve had regular meetings with officers from FEMA to collaborate and offer our recommendations during the process of reconstruction and address different situations that jeopardize this process.
  • We’ve met regularly with officers from HUD on the island to address the diverse needs of the industry and the rental housing market.

National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Urban Land Institute (ULI) 

These two organizations, to which we are affiliated, have been outstanding collaborators in issues that affect our housing and our industry. They have immediately responded to our call to handle any situation that affects the industry. They have also been paying attention to situations that may impact Puerto Rico.

NAHB: Since the first day after the strike of Hurricane Maria, the NAHB has been in constant communication with the ACPR finding ways to collaborate with our reconstruction efforts, helping us to gain access to federal government officials and legislative leaders in Washington, D.C., and participating in meetings with HUD in Washington, D.C. In 2019 we carried out several tasks with their support.

Also, NAHB directors and officers visited the island on multiple occasions during the last two and a half years to learn about our needs and collaborate with the Association.

  • Creation of HBA of Puerto Rico Community Development Corp.:

Following the recommendations of the NAHB in 2017, we created HBA of Puerto Rico, a philanthropic arm of the ACPR, which has conducted several activities to help underprivileged communities and visit senior homes to bring happiness and events to this population.

  • High School Students Training Program:

Through HBA, we successfully developed a program to train high school students in construction-related jobs. The program took place from May through July in conjunction with the Department of Education, our partner Caribbean Project Management (CPM), and the Gypsum Board Institute. Nearly 300 students took the training and received a certificate that allows them to work in the construction industry on the island and in the United States. Of these students, 150 received the carpentry course certificate offered last summer.

ULI: Since ACPR joined ULI, the collaboration has been extraordinary, since they’ve made available to our Association their resources and services. Following a request from ACPR, ULI Southeast Florida/Caribbean works on a project to help rebuild communities in the town of Toa Baja and offer technical assistance focused on resilience and strengthening the local economy. We chose this municipality given the impacts it suffered due to hurricane Maria.

An international panel of experts visited the island twice during 2019 to provide follow-up to this project, which began thanks to the initiative of the ACPR. The Kresge Foundation and ULI Southeast Florida Caribbean sponsored the project.

Private Sector and NGO

The Puerto Rico Homebuilders Association established alliances and collaborations with other private sector organizations to address issues that impact our sector. These include the tax on inventory and the minimum wage increase (Executive Order OR-2018-33) to $15 for construction workers at government reconstruction projects. We have joined or established alliances with the following:

  • The Private Sector Coalition (which has nearly 30 member organizations)
  • Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce
  • General Contractors Association
  • Engineers and Surveyors Guild
  • ARPR
  • AIA
  • Habitat for Humanity of Puerto Rico
  • Puerto Rico Architects and Land Surveyors Guild
  • Puerto Rican Concrete Association

Our work resulted in HUD’s requirement to eliminate Executive Order 2018-033.

Education

We have actively promoted seminars and educational workshops for our members and industry professionals. In 2019 we held 12 workshops that focused on the following topics, among others: CDBG-DR Funds, Construction Codes, Amendments to the Joint Regulation, construction costs, appraisals, and Opportunity Zones. Many of these seminars were eligible for continuing education credits for engineers, architects, and real estate brokers.

Dues increase:

We count on you to continue doing this work and face our current challenges.

The Board of Directors approved an increase membership dues starting on January 2020, as detailed below:

  • Builders: from $3,400 to $3,450
  • Associates: from $2,200 to $2,250
  • Professionals: from $1,900 to $1,950

We will use the additional funds to cover the increase in the ULI membership, which came into effect in August 2019.

We thank you for your support, and we pledge to continue working for the welfare of our industry, our members, and Puerto Rico.