Displaced Puerto Ricans seek more affordable housing following Maria

Members of Vamos4PR speak at Orange County Commission meeting

By Sachelle Saunders - Reporter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A local group representing Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria is pushing for two bills to be passed by state lawmakers for more help with housing.

Members of Vamos4PR spoke at the Orange County Commission meeting, urging the board to pass a resolution supporting HB 191 and SB 874, both of which would free up billions in funding for federal housing and protect monies in the Sadowski Federal Trust Fund. Emmanuel Ayala translated on behalf of Spanish-speaking Puerto Ricans; one said he has kicked out his hotel after FEMA funding was exhausted.

"Will we be sent out on the streets? Will the aid run out? We're not asking the state to pay our living expense, only to accommodate us in places that are accessible," the man said through Ayala.

Members of the group complained that requirements for housing can be excessive, despite many holding jobs since relocating. Many cannot show three times the rent or meet other requirements to qualify for housing.

Orange County Mayor Jacobs reinforced her support for affordable housing and spoke about programs spearheaded by the commission. She also pointed out that the problem is not new, that Floridians have been struggling with the same issue for some time, and she says Orange County is third in the nation for lack of affordable housing.

"Anything that we do isn't going to instantly produce the housing, and unfortunately, you need it now, a nd what you are experiencing is the same thing, unfortunately, we're experiencing before you got here," Jacobs said.

Despite those struggles, she said they would pass a stronger resolution, supporting the cause by Puerto Ricans in the next county commission meeting.

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