Hurricane-Proof Housing – San Juan PR


The PRRA built housing across the Island, as described in the 1938 Annual Report of the Department of the Interior: “The development of that part of the urban housing program of the P. R. R. A. originally aimed for the elimination of unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions, for the provision of decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings for families of low income, and for the reduction of unemployment and the stimulation of business activity, was continued during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1938. Inasmuch as the funds originally allotted were not sufficient to accomplish the demolition and clearance of the existing slum areas, it was deemed advisable from the beginning to apply the funds to the construction of the tenement group, project A, situated at Barrio Miranda, San Juan, and for the partial construction of the Eleanor Roosevelt and Juan Morel Campos developments located in Hato Rey, a suburb of Rio Piedras, and Barrio Canas, Ponce, respectively. Eight hundred and eleven units were finished during the fiscal year, including the partial completion of the utilities comprised in the whole program, which ultimately is to consist of 3,004 living units.

The Eleanor Roosevelt project now contains 445 housing unite; tenement group, project A, 216; and Ponce, 150 housing unite. In addition to this, Mirapalmeras at San Juan and La Granja at Caguas, two developments constructed by P. W. A. through a loan obtained from the P. R. R. A., have been transferred to the P. R. R. A., thereby adding 131 and 78 housing units, respectively, to the total. Construction of all the developments mentioned has been completed during the year, and the buildings are now occupied. Rentals range from $6 to $12 monthly per housing unit, including some of the utilities. Besides providing decent living quarters for families of the lower income groups, the projects represent the early experimental stage incident to any large housing program and thus furnish invaluable data to be considered in connection with future housing developments in Puerto Rico.”1

Geoff Burrows writes that “Building affordable, hurricane-proof houses that delivered clean drinking water, sanitation, electricity, and other public services to the island’s most vulnerable residents were among the PRRA’s primary objectives.”

“Before the PRRA, hurricane relief strategies created new slums. Without a comprehensive strategy for long-term economic development that included the construction of a local cement plant, hurricane housing relief built by the American Red Cross, PRERA, and local government was often an inadequate short-term solution to a problem that was guaranteed to repeat itself, given the geological and meteorological conditions of the Caribbean. In fact, many of the wood-framed relief houses and tormenteras (thatched-palm hurricane relief shelters) built after the 1928 and 1932 storms were already in disrepair. As the PRRA explicitly argued, most of the local government’s relief projects built between 1928 and 1936 “can hardly be justified, since without question the new settlement will become another slum area within a few years” or get blown away in another storm.”2

Source notes

1. Annual Report of the Department of the Interior, For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1938, By United States. Dept. of the Interior, Washington: 1938.

2. Burrows, Geoff, 2014, The New Deal in Puerto Rico: Public Works, Public Health, and the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration, 1935-1955, p. 138, doctoral dissertation, The City University of New York, (, accessed on April 27, 2017.

Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on May 3, 2017.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

San Juan, PR

Coordinates: 18.4655394, -66.10573549999998

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