Venezuela: Chavez Launches New Housing Program

With the demolition of 138 shanty homes facing
imminent risk of collapse in the Turmerito sector of Caracas, Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez launched a new housing program called "Barrio Nuevo" or
New Neighbourhood during his weekly television program Hello President (Aló
Presidente) on Sunday.
By Kiraz Janicke - Venezuelanalysis.com

chavez_diosdado.jpg

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (center) and Public Works & Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello (left) (Prensa Presidencial)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (center) and Public Works & Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello (left) (Prensa Presidencial)
Short URL

Caracas,
August 10th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - With the demolition of 138
shanty homes facing imminent risk of collapse in the Turmerito sector of
Caracas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez launched a new housing program called
"Barrio Nuevo" or New Neighbourhood during his weekly television program Hello
President (Aló Presidente) on Sunday.

Accompanied
by Vice President Ramon Carrizalez and Housing and Public Works Minister
Diosdado Cabello, Chavez explained that the 138 families (450 people) will be
temporarily resettled in apartments in the Fort Tiuna military base while their
new houses are built.

The
sprawling, chaotic slums that have grown up to surround the Venezuelan capital
are "the result of a century of misery and abandonment [by previous
governments]," Chavez said.

In
the surroundings of Turmerito, "many rich people seized land to build
factories, parking lots... they can go elsewhere," said Chavez. "We are going to
build housing for the people." The new houses will be painted blue, red and
yellow in honour of the Venezuelan flag.

The
new program will be incorporated into the Habitat Mission, a housing program
"which aims to transform the whole system of life, habitat and shelter for the
greater Venezuelan family," Chavez stated. "The Bolivarian Revolution has this
commitment: to give the best quality of life to all Venezuelans," he said. 

"We
must not stop until there is not a single slum left in the country," the
president declared.

However,
Chavez argued that in addition to housing, it is also necessary to provide
productive work. Thus, "A new commune, the Turmerito commune, a socialist
commune, is being born," he declared minutes before climbing onto a bulldozer
to begin the demolition of the shacks on Sunday.

Earlier
this year, Chavez created the Ministry of Communes to promote the formation of
"socialist communes" in specific geographical areas together with organized
communities. On July 11th, he explained in one of a series of
special episodes of Hello President devoted to the theory of social change,
"The ownership of the means of production is in the hands of the commune."

In
addition to the 320 new apartments under construction in the Turmerito
neighbourhood, the land currently being used for parking lots will be converted
into agricultural areas and small industrial zones for processing iron and wood
under the control of the commune, Minister Cabello reported.

A
school, as well as transportation, security and health services will also be part
of the new development plan in Turmerito, Chavez said.

Chavez
also stressed the importance of taking into account environmental factors when
building new housing developments. In this respect, he ordered Carrizalez and
Cabello to investigate a report published in the Venezuelan daily Ultimas
Noticias titled, "Caracas is growing out of control," which detailed the
illegal construction of a number of urban developments in the opposition-controlled
El Hatillo municipality in southeast Caracas.

"More
than 80 urban developments are being built in El Hatillo without viability
plans or guarantees for roads or services and it is feared the southeast will
collapse when the 100 thousand new residents are incorporated," the article
stated.

"This
must stop," Chavez said, "because we cannot allow the destruction of protected
zones and the violation of city laws."

"It
is necessary to review this, even when the mayor is from the opposition and the
governor as well; there is a national government here and no mayor can come and
say ‘I command here,' no. They have powers, but it is the Constitution that
rules, it is the people and there are laws," he told Cabello and Carrizalez.

Such
works are the product of the capitalist greed that destroys rivers, streams and
damages protected areas in order to construct large buildings and sell them off
at very high prices to the middle class, Chavez sustained.

"It's
necessary to protect the middle-class from capitalist greed...they are also
Venezuelans and this government is for everyone," he insisted.

A
common clause in housing contracts for many low- to middle-income homebuyers in
Venezuela is to pay cash at the start of construction, then make additional
adjusted payments for inflation between purchase and move-in. The clause is
designed to offset rising material and labor costs.

However,
in July, Minister Cabello accused the construction industry of abusing the
practice and ordered construction companies to repay the inflation charges. The
Ministry had received more than 1700 complaints from homebuyers.

In 2008, some 90,000 new homes were built in Venezuela, half by the
government and half by the private construction industry. Despite numerous
programs to address the problem, it is estimated that Venezuela continues to
face a shortfall of some 1.8 million houses.