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Grooming is progressing at full speed in Puerto Rico

Grooming is progressing at full speed in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican Jerome Zayas has moved twice in the past five years, along with his 12-year-old son Ayan, due to gentrification and high short-term rents in Puerto Rico, forcing its residents to move from neighborhood to neighborhood until off the island.

His ordeal is not over yet.

Zayas tells EFE that they are now, once again, forced to move from a 1930s building located in Puerta de Tierra, San Juan, which they “love”, but which is already “practically empty” and faces “a lot of speculation”. .

At 33, he’s in his third transition from the communities in San Juan where humble families traditionally live: La Perla and Puerta de Tierra, both of which border the touristy Old San Juan district.

The young man denounces that this scourge also destroys basic services in communities, such as schools, care centers, supermarkets and common spaces.

Like Zayas, Elliot Tray, 32, has had to look for a new home twice recently.

Oblivious to his reality, Ian Zayas, second from left, shares La Perla with his friends, having been displaced with his father. (Thais Lorca)

The first time, they cut off her water and electricity supplies and gave her 24 hours to leave her home in Santurce. Now she is in her second displacement, this time from the Río Piedras metropolitan area.

Gentrification, as defined by the Royal Spanish Academy, is the process of regeneration of an urban area, generally unpopular or declining, which implies the displacement of its original inhabitants by others with greater purchasing power.

controversial legislation

“There is no law that protects tenants, the law is pro-ownership” The New Yorker, who has lived in Puerto Rico, the island where his family lives, has been complaining for three years.

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And in Río Piedras, the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) denounced a few months ago that the beneficiaries, mostly Americans, of Law 22 are hoarding real estate in the urban area of ​​this neighborhood, where many students, workers and immigrants live.

Title 22, known as the Individual Tax Incentives Act, provides a full tax exemption for dividends, interest, and capital gains for investors who reside in Puerto Rico for at least 183 days a year.

Residents of a Río Piedras building that was acquired by a benefactor of this law raised their voices after the property’s new owner imposed a rent increase of $1,000 per month.

Between 2014 and 2020, home prices in Puerto Rico increased by 23% and average rent increased by 7%, while short-term rentals increased by 10%, according to the latest report from the Center for a New Economy (CNE). ).

Citizen mobilization

Given the authorities’ failure to regulate access to housing, organizations such as the Feminist Collective, Legal Aid and community leaders are trying to address this problem by creating awareness.

“Displacement is a reality for people living in Puerto Rico, where between 12% and 17% of the population have left in the past 10 years. Oftentimes, the decision to leave has nothing to do with will or spirit, but rather about the impossibility of living on the island,” Ariadne Goudreau-Oppert, Executive Director of Legal Aid, told EFE.

The Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics (IEPR) reported last March that over a two-year period – 2020 to 2022 -, the island suffered a 2% decline in its population, estimated at 64,000.

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“You have to try to create awareness, local initiatives and resistance,” assert Manny Vasquez and Lourdes Diaz, both creators of community projects to unite people who don’t want to leave the Caribbean island where they were born.

“People live here.”

Jesus Cruz Negron is Vice President of the Puerta de Tierra Collection, a community art collective that began mobilizing Puerta de Tierra in 2015 with the motto “Here the People Live.”

The transformation process took place so quickly, no one expected that in less than two years the neighborhood would transform from a neighborhood of residents born here, to a tourist neighborhoodshouts community leader EFE from one of the traditionally low-income residential areas suffering from excessive rent increases.

The slogan “Here the people live” was used by Puerto Rican artist Bad Bunny, who echoed this problem in his documentary on the topic “El Apagón,” released in 2022.

Negron appreciates the endorsement, but asks for a more long-term commitment to the community: “Unfortunately, they arrived, shot their video, and didn’t come back.”

Lest we forget, the activist organizes the “Intramurales” project which, by integrating urban art and sport, aims to demand access to adequate housing.