Mérida, January 10th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On his weekly television and radio program on Sunday, President Hugo Chavez announced more funding for emergency housing, including $500 million recovered from frozen U.S accounts. This followed a meeting on Saturday with tenant and dweller movements, who made various proposals and demands to the national government.
On his program ‘Alo Presidente’ Chavez announced the government would use $500 million recovered from frozen U.S bank accounts, to construct housing. Chavez said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had forced previous governments to deposit money in U.S banks through the Macroeconomic Stabilisation Fund, which was supposedly meant to assist the country with financial stabilisation.
He also announced other fund designations to various housing projects, such as 39.4 million bolivars (US$ 9.2 million) for the construction of 120 houses in Antimano, Caracas, using collective credit granted by the Popular Power Fund. During the meeting with activists on Saturday the government approved the temporary occupation of 9,300m2 of unused land in Antimano for the housing.
The construction will be self-managed by the grassroots organisation, Pioneers of New Socialist Communities, which has been camping in the area.
The government also approved 8 million bolivars (US$ 1.9 million) to acquire and renovate four other buildings in Caracas.
“We have to do the same with all abandoned buildings, it’s a debt we have,” Chavez said on Saturday, adding that that the military should occupy unoccupied land.
Meeting with Dwellers’ movement
On Saturday Chavez participated in a meeting titled Habitat and Housing with grassroots organisations that make up the “Dwellers’ Movement” in Caracas, YVKE Mundial reported.
The Dwellers’ Movement fights for legal security in the communities and for the right to housing, and groups together the Urban Land Committees, Caretakers United for Venezuela, “Pioneers” (families without housing), Tenants’ Committee, and tenants’ fronts.
The movement argued for a range of laws, reforms to laws, and the need to improve the application of other laws in relation to the regularisation of housing prices and land tenancy.
As a result, Chavez requested that the Attorney General’s Office and the Supreme Court form a team in charge of sanctioning those who don’t comply with the norms.
Chavez also approved a legal project to prohibit forced eviction of tenants. The Decree Against Arbitrary Evictions will be enacted under the enabling law passed by the National Assembly last month to enable president Chavez to quickly pass laws that fall within a certain framework, mostly reconstruction following November and December’s heavy flooding.
However, Chavez said he would have to see if the law goes to the National Assembly. “Not all laws are enabling laws. The enabling laws are specific laws to respond to the [flood] emergency and its impact,” he said.
Chavez congratulated the movement on their initiative. “I want to make an example of the Dwellers’ Movement, so that many more [committees] are formed across the country,” declared Chavez.
During the meeting Chavez also called the number of people who have to rent in Caracas an “attack on human dignity” and the conditions of the caretakers of rental apartments “slavery”. He announced the approval of a further Bs 126 million (US$ 29.3 million) for the development of five projects by the “Pioneers” organisation of families without houses who have set up camps on unoccupied land.
Arson attack on INTI office
Also on Sunday, minister for justice Tareck El Aissami confirmed that a fire in the offices of the National Land Institute (INTI) in Zulia was intentional, after investigators found petrol at the fire focus.
The INTI office is the key point from which the national government recovers large idle landed estates for food production.
The arson occurred Saturday morning, irreparably damaging 70% of the internal infrastructure, according to the state news agency AVN.
El Aissami concluded that the fire had been started by opposition sectors, and President Chavez also said he had no doubt about the event, “It was set on fire... by the fascist hands of the bourgeoisie,” he said.
“The terrorists who carried this out aren’t going to intimidate us, just the opposite. We’re going to deepen the revolution and intensify the recovery of lands in the Sur del Lago [area in Zulia],” Chavez said.
Housing Crisis context
Lack of affordable safe housing is one of the most serious problems in Venezuela, and has been made worse by the recent flooding.
Estimates of the total housing deficit range from two to three million. Around 60% of Venezuela’s population live in self-built homes on occupied land, a factor that prompted the organisation of communities into Urban Land Committees.
It is also estimated that Venezuelans need a minimum of 135,000 to 200,000 new homes per year to defeat the crisis in ten years, but in the first five years of the Chavez government, government and private sectors constructed an average of 34,000 homes, roughly equal to or less than under previous governments.
More recently the government has made a greater effort to confront the crisis, granting land titles, nationalising key housing related industries, starting the ‘petrocasa’ program of cheap and easily assembled houses made from plastics derived from petroleum processing, regulating housing loans, as well as signing bilateral agreements with allied countries to build houses and apartments.
According to the Venezuelan Chamber of Construction a total of 98,000 houses were built in 2009, a significant increase but still short of the minimum required.
According to the Caracas minister for Urban Reconstruction, Francisco Sesto, the national government is currently building 23,069 houses in the capital city, on land recovered by the state.