Politically empowered residents from all over the country have pushed forward a new housing bill in the Venezuelan Congress aimed at harmonizing rental relations in the country and protecting the rights of tenants from arbitrary evictions by landlords.
The proposed Tenancy Law (Ley de Arrendamiento Inmobiliario) would set legal standards to prevent egregious price hikes in rental properties and disallow landlords from removing tenants without the latter having ﬁrst obtained new housing arrangements.
It also makes all rental properties destined for housing to be “of general public interest”, giving the Executive Branch the authority to implement legal mechanisms in order to “guarantee all citizens the ability to enjoy the human right of digniﬁed living conditions”.
The measure comes as the government has committed itself to solve the housing shortage in the country, which is estimated at about 1.5 million.
According to Congressman Dario Vivas, although the proposed law is intended to protect vulnerable sectors of the population from being pushed into homelessness, “it’s not about a confrontation between different parties”.
In contrast, Vivas explained on Monday, “it’s about trying to avoid these types of conﬂictive situations so that people aren’t forced out of their homes”.
“In this relationship, each party has his/her rights and therefore, both have to be respected. No private property will be seized as norms are established which will permit the fulﬁllment of certain rights”, the congressman assured.
The new bill has come about through one of Venezuela’s unique law-making mechanisms known as the Legislator of the People (Pueblo Legislador), which gives community members the right to propose legislation directly to the country’s congressional body, the National Assembly. With the support of 0.1% of the electorate, the equivalent of approximately seventeen thousand people, residents can put a piece of proposed legislation in front of congress for consideration, debate and vote.
The Tenancy Law is an example of this legal mechanism and was originally proposed during a meeting held by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and a group of organized housing activists known as the Metropolitan Tenants Network in the capital of Caracas earlier this year.
On January 17, the Venezuelan Supreme Court put an injunction on forced evictions and last Sunday, thousands of Venezuelans from around the country visited stalls in different local plazas to add their signature in support of the bill.
Leonela Hernandez, an activist from the Tenants Network in the state of Yaracuy was on hand in the Plaza Bolivar of the city of San Felipe to help collect signatures for the new law.
“This an initiative that comes completely from the people. Through the Legislator of the People we’re going to back this Law”, she said.
Hernandez also pointed out that an explanation of the proposed bill and the Supreme Court’s injunction is being made available for all those seeking more information.
“We’re providing free legal advice to all the tenants and landlords in the state of Yaracuy who have rental properties, whether they be urban or suburban”, she noted.
With the support of the country’s dominant political force, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the signatures in support of the bill have far surpassed the required seventeen thousand, making the presentation of the initiative to the National Assembly imminent on March 2nd.
“We, as the people’s legislators and as spokespeople for the country are joining with all the inhabitants that want to make this law a reality in order to defend the interest of those who have been excluded”, said Blanca Eekhout, Congresswomen of the PSUV and Second Vice President of the National Assembly.
Given the PSUV’s support of the measure and their majority in the National Assembly, all accounts indicate that the bill will easily pass the legislature and be signed into law by President Chavez.
“The struggle of the people are our struggles and this party is carrying out the true revolution”, Eekhout said.