Chavez: $1 Billion for New Housing Projects

Providing decent and affordable housing for the nation’s population will be one of the top priorities for the government as the newly elected National Assembly begins to take shape, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced last Monday.

By Edward Ellis - Correo del Orinoco International

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Homes built from PVC in recent years by the "Petrocasa" program (RNV)
Homes built from PVC in recent years by the "Petrocasa" program (RNV)
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One of the major problems facing the Venezuelan government is the lack of affordable, safe housing for the nation’s growing population. The Chavez administration is pursuing several different strategies to ensure homes are available for all.

“I’m going to work with the other branches of government, governors and private businesses to solve this problem of housing,” the Venezuelan head of state said during a press conference at the presidential palace Miraflores.

Chavez referred to the question of housing as a problem for the state and expressed his willingness to take the issue to the “presidential level” in order to guarantee high quality homes at low prices.

Accordingly, the Venezuelan president reported that $1 billion USD of a new credit line granted by China will be directed towards the project. Earlier this year, China granted Venezuela a record-setting $20 billion in credit.

Much of the problem of housing in Venezuela revolves around the informal homes that have sprung up on the outskirts of the capital Caracas and other major cities.

These barrios are host to a highly dense population and in the case of Caracas, a seismic zone, the homes are precariously built on the hillsides with practically no oversight.

Last week, at least 14 people were killed when heavy rains led to the collapse of poorly constructed homes in the capital.

The government has made efforts to legally recognize the homes of barrio residents through the granting of land titles, but the structures themselves continue to be a sprawling and vulnerable patchwork of improvised living arrangements.

Chavez said on Monday that he would ask the National Assembly to pass a Special Housing Law to deal with the issue. Referring to the government owned and operated industries, the Venezuelan head of state called for unity and solidarity in confronting the housing problem.

“We have the cement factory and [the steel company] Sidor. We’re going to see how we can bring the price of materials down,” he said.

More Efforts Needed

Last month, the government inaugurateda pipe recycling plantin the state of Anzoategui, whichuses discarded materials from oilexploitation to create structuresfor affordable homes.

In 2008, the governmentlaunched the Petrocasa program,which provides low cost housingmade of the plastics derived fromthe oil industry.

Yet, despite these attempts toaddress the issue, the question ofhousing continues to exist as a majorchallenge for the government,particularly since the price ofbuilding materials increases andthe population continues to grow.

News agency EFE reports thatVenezuela’s current housing deficit is around two million. Statisticsfrom the private association,the Venezuelan Chamber of Construction,put the number of housesconstructed in 2009 at 98,000.

According to the organization,the Venezuelan government wouldneed to construct 200,000 housesannually to overcome the shortage.

On Monday, Chavez announcedthe $1 billion to be invested in thegovernment’s new housing initiativeshould provide “at least 25thousand homes.”

The Venezuelan President alsoasked for a commission to be establishedto study the possibilityof using the urban lands currentlyoccupied by golf courses for thecreation of neighborhoods.