New Venezuelan Law Turns Unused Urban Land Into Public Land

Venezuela's National Assembly passed the Urban Land Law unanimously on Friday. The law significantly declares that "unused urban land is at the service of the public" and regulates the use of such land with the aim of combating the massive housing deficit in Venezuela.

By Tamara Pearson - Venezuelanalysis.com

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A Caracas barrio (archive).
A Caracas barrio (archive).
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Mérida, August 16th, 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuela's National Assembly passed the Urban Land Law unanimously on Friday. The law significantly declares that "unused urban land is at the service of the public" and regulates the use of such land with the aim of combating the massive housing deficit in Venezuela.

Legislator Braulio Alvarez said the aim of the law was to put an end to the latifundio, or large land ownership, in urban areas and said the law was a result of the housing shortage in Venezuela, which was "inherited from the previous governments."

Alvarez said the current housing shortage is 1.8 million homes. Also, approximately 3 million homes in Venezuela have been made by their inhabitants, usually on squatted or occupied land, and often on steep land that is at risk of mudslides. Venezuela has a population of about 28 million.

The law stipulates its purpose as progressively satisfying "the right to dignified housing in urban areas" by regulating" the use and tenancy of urban land suitable for the development of housing social programs."

Specifically, the law says that owners should sell their land to the state if the land is "occupied by buildings in a state of ruin, buildings with construction failures, that are deteriorated, that were constructed over 60 years ago or that have been declared uninhabitable."

The law also applies to land abandoned by its owners, land without construction and "any other land as decided by the National Executive" in urban areas. The government will then buy the land and put it to social use.

The law requires that all state and municipal censuses be used in order to determine where there is available space to satisfy the population's housing needs.

It also creates a national institution whose principal objective is to coordinate the use of unused land.

In February 2002 Chavez passed a decree turning over housing titles to inhabitants of occupied land, but the decree could only apply to cases where the government owned the land or to inhabitants who had occupied the land for more than ten years.

In June 2006, after representatives of urban land committees, which were formed following the decree, met with the national assembly and the Law to Normalise Land Tenancy in Poor Urban Settlements was passed. It made such occupied land part of urban planning, established an organisation to hand out property titles and also established collective property.

The government has also been using, buying, or occupying idle latifundio rural land to use it to bolster national food production.

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