“Housing, housing, and more housing”, was the emphatic message of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last week as he announced his government’s top priority for 2011 during a ceremony which saw the delivery of eighty new apartments to families in the central state of Miranda.
The apartments were handed over to residents affected by torrential rains that have ravaged the nation, leaving some forty people dead and displacing more than 100 thousand.
Another one hundred homes were delivered via satelite to families in the western state of Zulia.
“I’m putting all my energy into this”, Chavez said during the ceremony held last Thursday. “All the families that were displaced are going to have a new home. We’re going to solve the problem of families without housing”, he afﬁrmed.
For residents of the recently inaugurated apartment building in the neighborhood of Felipe Acosta, their new living arrangements are a godsend.
“This is a blessing that God and our President have bestowed upon us”, said Brigida Duran, one of the beneﬁciaries of the new apartments.
“We live in an area that has been falling apart for 14 years and has been inhabitable”, Brigida recalled. “We’ve never had any housing beneﬁts until now, when the President granted us this blessing”.
SOLVING THE CRISIS
Since the onset of the rains in December, the national government has responded to the crisis by delivering homes to more than 2,000 families.
“Up until now, we’ve provided 2,380 living units”, President Chavez said. “At the same time, we continue to ﬁnish and build homes. We will continue this rhythm, delivering them every week. While we are ﬁnishing the construction of new homes, we will be beginning others or ﬁnding the land [necessary to build them]”.
The government’s focus on housing began with the national emergency but is planned to extend beyond the victims of the rains in order to solve the housing shortage that predates the natural disaster.
Ofﬁcials currently place the national housing deﬁcit at 1.5 million.
Government plans to address this problem include working with foreign ﬁrms from Iran, Belarus, and China to construct low-cost, high quality homes for those in need.
There are also plans to erect “a great city” of forty thousand new housing units in the military zone of Fort Tiuna in the capital of Caracas.
Another 7,000 apartments will be built in the state of Carabobo, the Venezuelan head of state reported.
BATTLING HOUSING FRAUD
In addition to accelerating home construction, the Chavez administration has also taken the offensive against widespread real estate abuses, which have cheated many ﬁrst-time homebuyers from obtaining properties they have legally purchased.
Widespread speculation on the part of private construction ﬁrms has been yet another problem that the government has confronted in its attempt to reform the housing sector.
“The real cost of these apartments is 184 thousand bolivars (US $43,000) and the private construction ﬁrms want to charge people 500 thousand (US $116,000),” Chavez said of the new apartments delivered on Thursday.
According to the Venezuelan President, the current housing problem facing the nation is the result of an inherited neglect on the part of past governments that, embracing a neoliberal economic ideology, limited access to affordable housing for the majority of the population.
As such, a new paradigm must be adopted to effectively deal with social problems such as housing. “Capitalism will not provide a solution to the housing problem. Only in socialism will we be able to resolve this problem”, Chavez proclaimed.