(San Juan, P. R.)- The Puerto Rico Department of Housing (PRDOH) issued a reminder today regarding the availability of the Housing Counseling Program— under the Community Development Block Grant- Disaster Recovery Program (CDBG-DR)— to offer free counseling to the Island’s residents concerning the process of acquiring or keeping a home.

The Housing Counseling Program addresses the needs of applicants through educational services that promote a better understanding of matters regarding  housing and finance.

“It is a priority of Governor Wanda Vázquez-Garced that Puerto Ricans have not only the material and economic resources to have a safe home, but also at least basic knowledge on matters that are important for acquiring and keeping a home for their family,” said PRDOH Secretary Luis C. Fernández-Trinchet.

The secretary added that “the program, which is financed with CDBG-DR funds, is already available and has impartial resources and professional knowledge that will accompany participants during each step of the process.”

The Program’s housing counselors educate participants concerning tenant rights, the process of purchasing a home, homeowner education, budgeting, finance, and credit responsibilities.

The federal Fair Housing Act is also discussed, as well as identifying and reporting abusive loans, the rights of people with disabilities, and the prevention and mitigation of foreclosures.

Orientation regarding disaster relocation, preparation, and recovery is also provided, as well as services for homeless people, among other subjects.

The orientations are provided as courses and the Program will provide documentation to certify that the course has been completed.

The secretary of the CDBG-DR Program, Dennis G. González, stated that topic may also include the identification and reporting of discriminatory policies, processes, and practices, or unfair loan practices.

“The housing counselors in the program approved by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) explain the options available to applicants, who receive housing counseling services, along with other forms of housing assistance,” explained the deputy secretary.

According to HUD, people with low or moderate incomes under 80 percent of the median family income may benefit from the program.

In addition, any person who is recovering from the ravages of hurricanes Irma and Maria also qualifies; homeowners, tenants, homebuyers, homeowners at risk of foreclosure, and homeless people who have an urgent need may receive the services.

Furthermore, residents who are in the process of recovering and who are located in high-risk areas — identified flood zones, areas at risk during storms, and landslide zones— or people to whom the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has denied aid, are also eligible.

PRDOH has several agencies assigned by area, which are dedicated to providing free counseling within the 78 municipalities.

In order to receive assistance or obtain more information regarding the Program, you may visit cdbg-dr.pr.gov/asesoria-de-vivienda, schedule an appointment by calling 1 ( 833) 234- 2324, or visit any of the housing counseling agencies.

Fernández-Trinchet concluded by pointing out that the “Housing Counseling Program makes it possible to promote resilience through the education of the public and the citizen’s defense of their right to dignified, accessible housing.”

“The Department of Housing remains available to provide support to the Island’s residents who are in the process of recovering and we urge all citizens to take advantage of the benefits of this program financed with CDBG-DR funds.”