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Progress of the Puerto Rico Rebuild

This October, construction on the first Team Rubicon-funded house in Puerto Rico began. In conjunction with St. Vincent de Paul, TR identified three families, whose homes were destroyed in Hurricane Maria, who were in dire need and were ineligible for federal assistance.

In order to receive federal funds from FEMA and from certain nonprofits, home and landowners have to be able to produce proof of tenure and title, David Burke, TR’s VP of Programs and Field Operations, explained. Because many Puerto Ricans live on land that has either been in their family for generations or live on what was once vacant land that they or a family member moved onto a long time ago, official records may not exist proving title and tenure.

 

 

Burke said that since many families can’t get help, they have been living in very unsafe, unstable and unsanitary places, places that lack roofs or walls and that are structurally unsound. Team Rubicon has been working on the island since the week Hurricane Maria ravaged it, and in April, they started working with local contractors to build new roofs on homes that had lost them. By the end of this year, the TR-funded local contractors will have replaced 500 roofs.

But TR management saw another unfulfilled need in Puerto Rico: whole houses that were unsafe for inhabitants, so they decided to meet that need. Thus far, TR has raised funds to rebuild three houses in what they are dubbing a pilot program. They worked with Pully Torres Ortiz, a local construction and engineering firm, to create ways to build more resilient structures while still staying true to the style of island houses. And with St. Vincent de Paul, TR chose the first three families and their houses based on their social and financial needs.

The construction process involves the demolition of the whatever has been left standing of the current structure, then a site assessment and layout of the new construction. The contractor builds the wall panels in his warehouse, and then the onsite building begins, with each home’s building process taking approximately 10 days. The homes will be built one at a time. Burke said, “I would expect 45 days total start to finish.”

 

The first home rebuild was recently completed for Julio and his 65-year-old uncle Vicente.

 

Burke said the labor and materials for the three houses costs just over $100,000, or between $30,000-$35,000 per home. “Whether people need a new roof or a whole new everything, at this cost we are putting families into safe homes,” Burke said, “And we have employed 100 Puerto Ricans for TR building projects. People have learned skills that will make them more eligible for employment in the trades in the future,” and that’s the second benefit to the work TR is doing on the island.

Right now, TR has funding for the three houses and the planned roofs—19 homes were re-roofed last week—until the end of the year. Burke said, “If we get more funding, we’ll continue at this pace.” After the initial three houses, Team Rubicon would like to continue funding the building projects since the need it so great.


 

If you’d like to donate to TR’s Puerto Rico roof and home rebuilding project, click here.

Jill L. Ferguson is an artist, consultant, entrepreneur and author of eight books, most recently of the book Creating a Freelance Career (Routledge, August 2018).