Dear PRBA Member:
We hope that you and your family are well and taking the necessary measures to stay healthy in the midst of the difficult situation we are facing.
After the 2017 hurricanes, and the earthquakes of January 2020, the Puerto Rico Builders Association (PRBA) has constantly called for reinvention and resilience. Today, we urge you to reflect on the different challenges that we face as a country.
The latest challenge brought forth by COVID-19 at a global level has led us to evaluate the need to strengthen and reinforce our actions at the family and community levels, so that the steps we take allow us to reinsert ourselves into the new norms and styles of coexistence. These types of events are the ones that give us the opportunity to analyze our vision, as well as outlining the actions that we must implement in new ways of doing business.
In the midst of the uncertainty that this new reality has brought, the PRBA continues to actively work with an internal task force outlining strategies that allow us to establish ourselves, in a safe way, as active collaborators in the quick recovery of the economic and social sector of our island.
As part of our efforts, we have been in direct and continuous contact with government authorities, providing them with recommendations at the short- and medium-term levels for the benefit of our industry, our members and Puerto Rico. In several communications efforts, the PRBA shared a series of suggestions with the Hon. Wanda Vázquez Garced, Governor of Puerto Rico, aimed at implementing strategies that guarantee the well-being of our members, as well as of all the families whose livelihood depends on the controlled reactivation of the activity on the construction industry. These suggestions include:
- Classify outdoor construction projects as critical infrastructure.
- Issue an administrative order to exempt construction projects from the ordinary process of obtaining certified permits to be presented to the OGPe or Autonomous Municipalities for a three-month period, in accordance with the agreement in Article 7 of Law No. 76-2000, as amended, known as the “Law of Procedures for Situations or Emergency Events.”
- Exempt applications for construction permits from the presentation of the permit and the duty fee payments, when complying with the following:
- Categorical Exclusions as evidence of environmental compliance.
- Documents (plot plans and specifications) certified by a licensed engineer or architect, as disposed by the Certification Law.
- Preparation of certified inspection reports required during the construction stage.
- Make it viable for mortgage closings to be performed remotely by authorizing the following:
- Notary at a distance, using the available telecommunication methods without the face-to-face requirement.
- Authorize the appraisers’ visit to those properties up for inspection, respecting the social distancing measures.
- Authorize for the mortgage closing to be performed remotely so they don’t have to be face-to-face, or they can take place following social distancing measures.
- Allow payments in real estate transactions to be electronically processed.
- Extend the benefits of Law 216 of 2011, as amended (no CRIM payments, no stamp payments, etc.), for a period of five years.
- Make viable the inscription of those sales and purchases at the CRIM through virtual methods.
- Government agencies must continue with the evaluation of those projects in the design stage that have yet to be certified. It could be done remotely, to avoid stopping the development of new projects.
IVU (sales tax) and B2B
- Continue with the exemption in the collection of the IVU and B2B for certified projects.
- Exempt certified projects from excise payments.
- We recommend that the Executive and Legislative branches work together in the search for alternatives so that many of the companies that are already facing a difficult economic situation can continue operating during and after this crisis, and so that their employees can keep their jobs.
Efforts with the Federal Government
- It is necessary for the Government of Puerto Rico to request waivers with the pertinent agencies that allow, among other things:
- Raise the FHA up to 225% of the limit, as it happened back in 2008, for a period between 2 to 3 years.
- Abolish the 72-hour period for the HUD disclosure.
- Eliminate concentration risk from FHA requirements (delinquency, among others) in condominiums.
In the midst of this health emergency, we have also aimed to keep active pressing issues that affect our members. We have participated in several meetings with government representatives and members of professional organizations to address with a sense of urgency those issues that remain in the pipeline and which affect us directly.
Meetings with Resident Commissioner
- We recently met with the resident commissioner, the Hon. Jenniffer González, who has heard our concerns on the state of the construction industry and the handling of the economic stimulus packages granted by the federal government.
Meetings with the Department of Housing
- To that end, we have also met with the Secretary of Housing, Luis Carlos Fernández, and Dennis González, PE, Department of Housing undersecretary, to delve into the measures taken to ensure the continuity in the use of the CDBG-DR funds, in addition to reactivating the conversation on our concerns about the new hurricane season.
Meetings with Representative Antonio “Tony” Soto
- We participated in several meetings with representative Antonio “Tony” Soto to discuss the need to abolish the Tax on Inventory. This is in addition to the actions taken in conjunction with the Private Sector Coalition to join efforts aimed at supporting our membership as well as small- and medium-sized merchants.
- In addition to the efforts made at the government level, we have been collecting information in meetings with organizations at the national level, such as the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). This will give us the opportunity to carry out an in-depth analysis on the impact that the novel COVID-19 situation will bring to our industry and the actions that have been taken in different states to manage the results that this crisis brings. This will help us identify strategies and protocols we can implement in the management of future situations at the local level. At the same time, we are focusing our efforts so that in the midst of this crisis we continue to build in a safe, efficient and resilient way.
Dear member, we will continue directing our efforts to outline the necessary strategies that will ease the way we do business during this crisis, and which allow our industry to be reaffirmed as one of the economic pillars of our island, during times like the one we are facing today.
Alfredo Martínez-Álvarez, Jr. Chairman of the Board