Caracas, May 9, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s Supreme Court blocked a contentious law Friday that would have granted individual residents title deeds to public housing constructed under the Great Venezuelan Housing Mission (GMVV).
Since the program’s founding in 2011, the Bolivarian government has constructed over 1.2 million homes mainly for low income Venezuelans afflicted by the dire housing shortage in the nation’s overcrowded cities, which are home to 90% of the population.
Currently, residents of the GMVV possess a Deed of Use document that grants them the right to the homes for life, but authorizes the sale of the houses only under special circumstances and not on the private market.
Approved by the opposition-controlled National Assembly on April 13, the Law for the Award of Property Deeds to the Beneficiaries of the Venezuelan Great Housing Mission proposes to grant residents the “right to private and individual property” over the houses, replacing the existing contract of collective “family property”.
The bill also outlined mechanisms for the payment of indemnities to landowners whose land was occupied by social movements or expropriated by the Venezuelan state in the course of public housing construction.
President Nicolas Maduro sent the bill to the country’s Supreme Court for constitutional review last Wednesday after denouncing the law as a scheme by private real estate interests to create a speculative housing market.
The TSJ, for its part, found the legislation in violation of the right to housing enshrined under Article 82 of the Magna Carta, which must be guaranteed by the state and “progressively” expanded to the entire population, especially those with “scarce resources”.
As such, the bill contravenes the Venezuelan Constitution’s principle of “progressivity” with regard to human rights and thus constitutes a “regression” that reduces the right to housing to the juridical status of “a mere consumer necessity”.
The court additionally ruled in favor of the government’s objection that the legislation risked unleashing rampant housing speculation, endangering Venezuelans’ right to affordable housing.
“The law under consideration abandons the social character of housing as a fundamental right in favor of a lucrative market based on the free sale of property,” the justices stated.
The TSJ verdict was met with harsh criticism by opposition lawmaker Julio Borges, the bill’s architect, who lashed out at the ruling as an attack on private property rights.
“Is it unconstitutional to give property to Venezuelans?,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Property is not a concession of the PSUV [United Venezuelan Socialist Party]; it is a constitutional right. What is unconstitutional is the PSUV and the TSJ,” the right-wing legislator added.
Despite backing from the opposition-dominated parliament, the law has faced strong opposition from urban housing movements as well as an overwhelmingly majority of GMVV residents.
According to a Hinterlaces poll last month, 62% of GMVV residents are against allowing the sale of their homes.