MReport October 2018

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46 | TH E M R EP O RT FEATURE Moving Puerto Rico Housing Forward One year after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, opportunities abound for the industry to help restore and revitalize the island's housing market. By David Wharton W ith more Puerto Rican residents returning to the island a year after Hurricane Maria, an upcoming industry summit will explore opportunities for the industry to partner towards rebuilding a strong and thriving housing market on the island. On November 14–16, the Five Star Institute will convene PR18, a leadership summit to be held at the San Juan Marriott in San Juan, Puerto Rico. PR18 will bring together executives and repre - sentatives from mortgage banks, servicers, suppliers, non-depository institutions, and government agen- cies, all working to assess Puerto Rico's current situation, identify areas of need, and create plans on how to best assist the island and her people during this important time of recovery and revitalization. According to a recent study by Point2 Homes, a real estate website for Americans and Canadians seeking properties in on the island, Puerto Rican home prices dropped by 15 percent after Hurricane Maria. The median price of a home listed on Point2 Homes to - day is $116,750, down from $136,500 just before Hurricane Maria and down from $224,000 in 2010. Nevertheless, the industry now has a chance to help Puerto Rico rebuild, recover, and move forward from this disaster. More than three-quarters of real estate professionals in Puerto Rico reported feeling "optimistic" or "very optimistic" about "the recovery of the real estate busi - ness in Puerto Rico," according to a survey by Point2 Homes. Tourism also remains strong, with 80 percent of Puerto Rico's hotels back in business and an antici - pated 1.7 million future visitors having already booked a stay dur- ing cruise season. Point2 Homes estimates that this should translate to about $250 million in revenue for the island. On September 21, 2018, the day after the one-year anniversary of the disaster, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson and Puerto Rico's Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced the formal execution of a $1.5 billion grant agreement to help citizens in Puerto Rico to recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, $1 billion of which will be allocated to rebuilding housing. However, an August 2018 report to Congress by the island's government esti - mated that a full recovery will require an additional $139 billion. Over the course of the day-and- a-half summit, PR18 will explore the challenges and opportunities facing Puerto Rico from a multi - tude of angles. After a morning keynote address on Wednesday, November 14, the day will begin with a "State of the Island" roundtable discussion that will examine Hurricane Maria's initial impact, what has happened in the year since, and where Puerto Rico stands today. From that macro perspective, PR18's agenda will then begin to narrow its focus into more specific elements of the island's recovery. Roundtable sessions will cover assistance policies and programs designed to help the island's inhab - itants, look at property values and inventory management challenges, and explore how the island's hous- ing inventory can be rebuilt better, stronger, and more resistant to future storms. The challenges along the road to Puerto Rico's recovery are many and daunting. Finding solutions to those problems will require a com - mitment of time, resources, and outside-the-box thinking. PR18 will hopefully prove a fruitful step to- ward that critical level of industry collaboration. To learn more about PR18, visit the official website at DAVID WHARTON, Online Editor at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his B.A. in English and minored in Journalism. Wharton has over 15 years of experience in journalism and previously worked at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm, as Associate Content Editor, focusing on producing media content related to tax and accounting principles and government rules and regulations for accounting professionals. Wharton has an extensive and diversified portfolio of freelance material, with published contributions in both online and print media publications. Wharton and his family currently reside in Arlington, Texas. He can be reached at David. More than three-quarters of real estate professionals in Puerto Rico reported feeling "optimistic" or "very optimistic" about "the recovery of the real estate business in Puerto Rico."

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