As August starts, families in Puerto Rico try to prepare for the peak of the hurricane season. The continuous housing and economic insecurity are still considerable concerns for homeowners five years after Hurricane María. In case another disaster strikes the Island, Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico's Derecho a tu Casa program, committed to mitigating the risk of foreclosure, expects a surge of calls and requests for assistance. This time, we want to have a social protection floor in place, policies and procedures aware of the impact of catastrophes in households, to ensure housing at times of peril.
During the last semester, we experienced varying urgency and attention. On the one hand, we are conscious of a rising number of court foreclosure complaints. Between January and June, 2,210 new complaints were presented, a very high number compared to the same period in 2021, when throughout the whole year, 2,439 families faced this threat. On the other hand, we have seen a pattern of less public attention to foreclosures and more public investment in the movement of for-sale properties. Although people are generally concerned about rising housing costs, little is being said about people who are already homeowners and face an increased risk of dispossession. Other topics that lack attention include protocols and policies to protect these homeowners in case of disasters and a rising inability to afford their mortgages. While some may consider this strategy pessimistic, we need to pivot the narrative and attention to minimize the threat of homelessness NOW.
The next few months will be full of workshops, KYR brigades, media outreach regarding our helplines and free legal support. At the same time, we will be increasing advocacy efforts to ensure that families - particularly elders and domestic violence survivors- are at the center of official narratives and attention and to ensure no displacements after a disaster strikes. Your support will help us create materials and campaigns to educate homeowners and financial institutions on the need to act. Please continue supporting Ayuda Legal Pueto Rico. Your donations are crucial.