NAHB Leaders Tour Puerto Rico Rebuilding Efforts

Filed in Disaster Response, Global Housing, Leadership by on January 5, 2018 1 Comment
mon, noel

Randy Noel (left) and Dean Mon (center) get an update on conditions from Toa Baja, Puerto Rico mayor Bernardo Márquez García.

NAHB Senior Officers Randy Noel and Dean Mon flew to Puerto Rico in late December to get a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by last fall’s hurricanes — and to see how the Federation can help Puerto Rican home builders get back to business faster.

What they saw was an island still struggling to right itself — and HBA leaders working round the clock to offer their support.

“When we were in San Juan,” the territory’s capital, “the traffic lights were working, businesses were open, things looked pretty normal,” Noel said.

Talking to cab drivers and waiters revealed what the NAHB leaders couldn’t see at first glance. With no power for their refrigerators, “they say they have to ice down their food and only buy what they need right away. They have generators at night, and said when they aren’t working, they are cleaning” the streets and their homes of debris.

“When you got outside of the city, that’s where we saw the destruction. The wooden houses didn’t survive. The concrete structures are up, but the windows are gone,” Noel said.

And while there doesn’t seem to be a labor shortage to get homes and schools and hospitals up and running again, there is a resources and materials shortage. “They need concrete. They need electrical wires and capacitors. They need trucks to haul away the debris and use the debris to create new levees” so the next time a hurricane comes, the island is more protected, Noel said.

The HBA Response

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The rebuilding is just getting started.

Noel and Mon came away from their brief visit with respect and admiration for the leadership displayed by the HBA of Puerto Rico. President Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz and Vice President Emilio Colón Zavala have already stepped up to get construction moving again.

“They are really, really personally dedicated to bringing Puerto Rico back better than it was and they have a lot of connections on the mainland and in Puerto Rico. I think they can truly effect some change,” Noel said.

Mon is concerned about the steep hill they’ll have to climb to get there: The island’s infrastructure, especially electrical and transportation systems, was already in disrepair before the hurricane struck, corruption continues to be an issue, and many businesses are still recovering from the Great Recession. In addition, most rural jurisdictions can’t afford the building inspectors and code specialists that can ensure that the replacement homes and businesses are built to modern codes — and not subject to more damage with the next storm.

“There is no magic answer, but what we can do is stay in contact with the HBA, see if we can help with introductions with HUD and other agencies, and help them encourage the local government to use their resources correctly,” Mon said.

To that end, the NAHB Senior Officers have appointed Mon to oversee the association’s initiatives in Puerto Rico, and HBA leaders are traveling to Orlando during the International Builders’ Show to attend Noel’s installation as chairman of the NAHB Board of Directors. “They need money, a lot of money, but more than that, they need a strategy,” Mon said.

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  1. Holly Hardenberg says:

    Thank you for doing what you can to help the people of Puerto Rico. We must not forget that these U.S. citizens have a long road back to normal. Resources and a strategy!

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