NCRC’s membership includes more than 600 community-focused organizations in 44 states. Here’s an introduction to one of them, Center for Habitat Reconstruction (CRH), in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from CRH’s Lawyer Jorge Maldonado.
Tell us about your organization’s mission/focus area.
CRH is the only 501(c)(3) in Puerto Rico dedicated to leveraging vacant and abandoned properties as assets for building stronger communities. We work in partnership with community-based and nonprofit organizations to design and facilitate nuisance abatement and land use planning processes with civic engagement at their core. We work in economically disadvantaged communities who suffer the most from the effects of abandonment.
Our milestones include the surveying of over 1,100 nuisance properties throughout 13 municipalities, as well as spearheading the creation of Puerto Rico’s very first Community Land Bank in the municipality of Toa Baja.
Describe a current challenge in your community and how your organization is addressing this?
Roughly one of three houses in Puerto Rico are vacant or abandoned, many of which represent a series of threats to our communities. We address this issue through public nuisance laws and community planning. In collaboration with civic partners and community leaders, we carry out the mapping and assessment of abandoned properties as well as community planning efforts. This includes the identification and declaration of public nuisances, which is the first legal step needed for the creation of an acquisition and disposition pipeline. After code enforcement efforts, the parties will be left with an inventory of vacant lots and structures that have either been abandoned by their owners or lack thereof.
Why did you join NCRC?
CRH is interested in growing its network of collaborators in the area of community development specifically in areas of affordable housing and leveraging resources from federal funds. Even though Puerto Rico is a small archipelago, it has a diverse set of communities with their own geographical qualities and with help from the NCRC network CRH will be able to learn from organizations that have served similar communities with their own unique set of challenges.
How did you hear about NCRC?
Have you collaborated, or would you like to collaborate with other organizations to successfully achieve a goal?
CRH is constantly in collaboration with organizations and we wish to keep working with other organizations to achieve our goals. We work with other organizations that are committed to community development – like the Río Piedras Development Trust, which has been a key partner in efforts to identify vacant spaces and turn them into affordable housing in the Río Piedras area. We also collaborate with the League of Cities of Puerto Rico – an organization that represents the municipalities of Puerto Rico and has been an ally in educating civic leaders around public nuisance abatement and converting these properties into affordable housing.
Please share a success story or memorable moment from your work.
Just recently, we helped a community leader transform an abandoned property into a “Museum of the Memory of Tras Talleres.” This museum recounts the rich history of different distinguished persons who were raised in the Tras Talleres Ward, which has produced Salsa singers, tv anchors and boxers. This community has collaborated with the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico and the Department of Architecture of the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico to develop the design of the museum. A video of the museum can be found here.
Jorge Maldonado is a lawyer for the Center for Habitat Reconstruction.
Picture courtesy of CRH.