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Department Of Housing Invests $400 Million To Modernize Public Housing

Goal is to improve residents’ quality of life by promoting community involvement and self sufficiency

by José L. Carmona

April 20, 2000
Copyright © 2000 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Santurce’s Manuel A. Perez public housing is looking more like a walk-up apartment complex than a caserio (project).

That’s because the public residential complex was completely remodeled recently as part of the Department of Housing’s (DOH) current $400 million modernization program that will include over 6,700 public housing units across the island.

"Some projects don’t look anything like public housing," said Carlos Gonzalez, DOH secretary. "Manuel A. Perez looks much more like a upper-middle class apartment complex. It’s very impressive."

The Public Housing Administration (PHA), one of four agencies under the DOH umbrella, is in charge of the modernization program, among other things.

The current modernization effort is part of an ambitious $800 million master program in place by PHA since 1993 that will eventually involve 20,000 of the 56,000 housing units in approximately 333 public housing projects in Puerto Rico.

"Each unit is completely emptied; floors, cabinets, bathrooms, doors, windows, and appliances are replaced with new ones," Gonzalez said. "Recreational and green areas are added, even the building’s facade is changed."

The modernization also includes new lighting, electrical & phone wiring, drainage, and sewer systems. Special attention is given to the physically challenged by upgrading ramps, sidewalks, parking, and access to common areas.

"Another thing we are doing as part of the modernization program is the establishment of electronic libraries," the DOH secretary commented enthusiastically. "Around 20 public housing projects already have their own electronic library."

Each electronic library is divided in two sections. One section houses a training area with several computers and a projector, while the second area includes various individual computer workstations. Some even have satellite hook ups.

A teacher will be available at specific times to provide computer training to groups of children as well as adults. Each library will stock educational materials and programs in both English and Spanish, designed to improve skills on subjects such as Math, English, Science, Spanish, and others. Seven additional electronic libraries are expected to open in the next few weeks.

Gonzalez sees his agency’s role shifting, from one as a provider to one of a facilitator.

"We are investing large sums of money to improve the quality of life and standard of living of those who live in our public housing projects," Gonzalez said. "The idea is not only to provide safe and accessible housing to residents, but also to promote in them community involvement and self-sufficiency. To make residents feel that they are part of society."

With 56,000 public housing units Puerto Rico has the second highest number of DOH units

in the nation. New York tops the list with 130,000 units, while Chicago is third with 32,000.

The island’s combined DOH budget is more than $550 million.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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