As much as half of Puerto Rico’s housing was thrown together illegally by local handymen with materials scraped together and scavenged from dumps, the Miami Herald reports.
Hurricane Maria ravaged the island five months ago. Now, Puerto Rico is beginning to come to terms with a housing crisis that will last for years.
Puerto Rico’s building regulations are comparable to Florida’s own strict codes, meant to withstand hurricane force winds, but many residents living in the island’s more rural communities forgo compliance. Islanders skimping on structural integrity is not surprising when building code enforcement is scarce. Puerto Rico’s official poverty rate is at 44 percent, according to Miami Herald.
“At the end of the road, it’s lack of planning and controls,” Toa Baja Mayor Bernardo Márquez García told the Miami Herald. “The impact of Maria is that now we have to rethink where we were and where we’re going. The other thing Maria brought is awareness. After suffering what we have suffered, I haven’t the least doubt that people are very receptive to education about doing things differently.”
The illegal housing on the island was hit the hardest, and likely makes up the vast majority of the 250,000 houses counted so far with major damage. Officials expect that number will rise to 300,000. Around 1.1 million households have filed for disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), so far.
At least 70,000 of the homes listed with major damage are completely destroyed.
Nearly 4,000 families that are homeless because of Maria are living out of hotels paid for through FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance program. The funding is running out, though, and the families will either have to cover the expense themselves or move back to ruined homes, possibly without electricity, by March 20, CNN reports.
For about 200 families, FEMA funding ran out Wednesday. However, the agency says that is because their houses were repaired or deemed habitable.
FEMA is currently paying for 873 households staying in hotels on Puerto Rico, 1,488 in Florida, 600 in Massachusetts, 243 in New York, 167 in Connecticut and 177 in Pennsylvania, according to CNN.
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