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Tue Feb 6, 2018, 12:15 PM

Special Report: In Puerto Rico, a housing crisis U.S. storm aid won't solve

Source: Reuters

#BUSINESS NEWS FEBRUARY 6, 2018 / 9:08 AM / UPDATED AN HOUR AGO

Special Report: In Puerto Rico, a housing crisis U.S. storm aid won't solve

Nick Brown
15 MIN READ

CANOVANAS, Puerto Rico (Reuters) - Among the countless Puerto Rico neighborhoods battered by Hurricane Maria is one named after another storm: Villa Hugo. The illegal shantytown emerged on a public wetland after 1989’s Hurricane Hugo left thousands homeless.

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Villa Hugo reflects a much larger crisis in this impoverished U.S. territory, where so-called “informal” homes are estimated to house about half the population of 3.4 million. Some residents built on land they never owned. Others illegally subdivided properties, often so family members could build on their lots.

Most have no title to their homes, which are constructed without permits and usually not up to building codes. The houses range in quality and size, from one-room shacks to sizable family homes. Many have plumbing and power, though not always through official means.

The concentration of illegal housing presents a vexing dilemma for local and federal authorities already overwhelmed by the task of rebuilding an economically depressed island after its worst natural disaster in nine decades.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló has stressed the need to “build back better,” a sentiment echoed by U.S. disaster relief and housing officials. But rebuilding to modern standards or relocating squatters to new homes would take an investment far beyond reimbursing residents for lost property value. It’s an outlay Puerto Rico’s government says it can’t afford, and which U.S. officials say is beyond the scope of their funding and mission.

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Read more: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-puertorico-housing-specialreport/special-report-in-puerto-rico-a-housing-crisis-u-s-storm-aid-wont-solve-idUSKBN1FQ211

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