Para divulgación inmediata:
Grupo profesional de planificación y acción comunitaria, ProRescate Viejo San Juan, solicita investigación a el Departamento de la Vivienda y Desarrollo Urbano del gobierno de los Estados Unidos, con respecto a la posible violación de políticas de esta agencia federal por parte del Departamento de la Vivienda del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico en lo que concierne al proyecto de revitalización de Santurce.
Dicha solicitud se encuentra detallada en la siguiente carta dirigida al Honorable Mel Martínez, Secretario de dicha agencia:
August 9, 2003
Honorable Mel Martínez, Secretary
Dear Secretary Martínez:
On behalf of Santurce’s elderly and low-income communities, we respectfully request an investigation towards possible fair housing and environmental justice discriminatory actions being conducted by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s Housing Development Department. The actions of this agency as it manages Santurce’s urban renewal and housing revitalization plan have negatively impacted the chances for long-term residents of these communities to live their remaining years in the place they know and love.
The fair housing and environmental justice discrimination that is currently taking place in Santurce should be considered by HUD as signs of a project that has gone awry and that is totally incompatible with HUD’s mission. What in fact is taking place is that HUD’s goals, expanding homeownership, increasing access to affordable housing free from discrimination, supporting community development, and addressing the housing needs of society’s most vulnerable, are not a priority of this project.
As you know, HUD funds have been granted to carry out this project. Federal regulations and policies, such as the Fair Housing Act, Housing and Community Developing Act, Age Discrimination Act, Rehabilitation Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and many other executive orders, apply whenever federal funds are allocated for projects of this type. As a result, these laws explicitly prohibit fair housing and environmental justice discrimination acts from taking place in HUD-sponsored projects.
However, local authorities in charge of Santurce’s urban housing renewal and redevelopment plan have consistently ignored these regulations. Clearly, this project is incompatible with President Bush and Secretary Martínez’s urban development and housing vision. Long-term residents of these communities, whom also happen to be both elderly and poor, are being displaced as you read this communication. These citizens have not been given the opportunity of becoming homeowners once the new housing developments are completed. No affordable housing developments are to be built as part of this urban renewal plan. The Puerto Rican Housing Development Department has not developed a plan to spur the development of affordable housing opportunities in these neighborhoods. Therefore, these 80-plus families will likely have to move away from their neighborhoods. This is certainly not what the Bush Administration and HUD had in mind as part of their strategy for supporting community development and addressing the housing needs of society’s most vulnerable.
The fact that this urban renewal plan is incompatible with San Juan’s comprehensive development and land use plan should be of deep concern to HUD. It is highly inappropriate for a federal agency to fund projects that have not been previously planned and for which the general public’s opinion has not been sought. San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini has expressed this throughout the evolution of this project, and yet, construction continues. In recent days, Ileana Echegoyen, Secretary of Puerto Rico’s Housing Development Department, publicly acknowledged this issue of incompatibility with the Municipality’s urban general plan.
In her remarks, which were published on the Island’s major newspapers, Secretary Echegoyen stated that Santurce’s redevelopment and expropriation were based on two main purposes: to increase the area’s population and lookout for the collective and social benefit of the current residents. However, her objectives couldn’t be farther from HUD’s mission statement when over 80 percent of the proposed housing projects are exclusively for high-income private housing and the remainder are scheduled for a similar clientele.
This is contrary to the social benefit of the current residents and contradicts HUD’s mandate for projects to comply with access to affordable housing. What this does is guarantee that these families, many of them that live on their own with no family nearby to take care of them, may resort to live on the street and become an additional burden to the welfare rolls.
The question then is, if new housing for the area starts at $250,000 per unit, and if the Puerto Rican government has not planned or allocated resources to secure affordable homes for these citizens, how will it be possible for Santurce’s displaced residents to acquire a home in the place they all have lived for the last 60 years? This is totally inappropriate and contrary to what HUD is trying to achieve as part of its community development and planning initiative to spur economic development within inner city neighborhoods and access to affordable housing for America’s elderly and poor.
Therefore, we plead with you to seriously consider the creation of a Task Force and initiate an investigation into the particulars of this project. Certainly, these communities deserve more respect and consideration on the part of government. Also, please visit the website created by the Santurce Community Action Group (http://www.santurcenosevende.org/) to see how the residents have empowered and organized themselves to make their opinions heard.
CC: HUD San Juan Regional Office
Anotación para la prensa:
Los vecinos de Santurce a través de su Junta de Acción Comunitaria San Mateo de los Cangrejos los invita a cubrir su marcha protesta el 12 de agosto a las 3:00 p.m. frente al Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. ¡Los esperamos !