Pushing forward with its large-scale public housing program that seeks to construct two million new homes in the next 6 years, the Venezuelan government opened the doors of 602 apartments to needy families in the socialist city of Caribia last weekend.
The delivery represents part of Mission Housing Venezuela, a social program launched earlier this year with the explicit goal of eliminating the Caribbean nation’s housing deﬁcit, estimated at 1.5 million.
“In the future, there will not be a single family that doesn’t have digniﬁed housing like the ones being handed over today in Caribia City”, President Hugo Chavez said during the inauguration ceremony on Saturday.
Broadcasting from the presidential palace of Miraﬂores in Caracas, the Venezuelan head of state praised his government’s efforts in making affordable homes a reality, commenting that such a program would never be possible under a capitalist system.
“Only with a socialist government would this be possible”, Chavez afﬁrmed.
A SOCIALIST CITY
Caribia City, a socialist megaproject ﬁrst conceptualized by Chavez in 2006, is envisioned as a planned, holistic community, complete with schools, health clinics and employment opportunities for its residents.
With the recent birth of Mission Housing Venezuela, the city’s development has been accelerated as the social program incorporates the work of various ministries and building strategies to boost housing availability.
The government is planning a total of 1,400 new homes, totally furnished, to be delivered to residents of the city this year and a total of 20 thousand to be provided in the urban center by 2018.
Located in the sector Camino Los Indios just outside the capital of Caracas, the majority of the ﬁrst residents to beneﬁt from the initiative have been the victims of torrential rains that left more than 100 thousand people homeless at the end of last year, as well as those living in high risk areas too dangerous for permanent residence.
“I’m happy and really pleased with this new home”, said Jessica Suarez, mother of three, upon receiving the keys to her new apartment last Saturday. “Now we’re going to be able to start a new life”, she stated.
The new units are ﬁnanced by the Venezuelan government with varying rates of subsidies including up to 100 percent, depending on a family’s income.
“The government’s investment has been 2.9 billion bolivars [$674 million] up to this point and we’re approving another important allocation in order to accelerate the work”, Chavez said of his administration’s ﬁnancial commitment to the project.
Ofﬁcials report that each 3 bedroom apartment has a cost of 290 thousand bolivars [$67,000] and is being constructed by a Venezuelan-Cuban enterprise formed under the auspices of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americans (ALBA) regional block.
Nearly 2,000 Venezuelans have been employed by the project.
“This is a city for the people… not for the machine of capitalism that allows a small group of people to beneﬁt at the cost of the rest”, Chavez declared on Saturday.
ANOTHER HOUSING INITIATIVE: PETROCASA
In addition to the acceleration of Caribia City, the Venezuelan government has also been speeding up its construction of Petrocasas to fulﬁll its housing commitment.
In the state of Carabobo, more than 27 thousand people have beneﬁted from the construction of 6,000 homes fabricated from materials originating from the nation’s massive oil industry.
The idea of using the country’s dominant oil sector as a motor for housing construction was ﬁrst proposed in 2004 as a way to adopt locally available materials to the needs of residents living in precariously built shantytowns outside major cities.
“Petrocasa comes from the idea of designing a construction system that can utilize the raw materials of the petro-chemical industry. For this reason, we sought out the best technology in the world, selecting it from Austria, Italy and Germany in order to create the machines and the designs to build the ﬁrst Petrocasa factory in the state of Carabobo”, explained Enrique Majo, Director of the socialist business.
The homes are built with highly resistant plastic frames ﬁlled with concrete, steel and iron girders.
There are currently three factories in Venezuela producing the Petrocasa “kits” in the states of Carabobo and Apure.
The houses, which can be built in 10 to 12 days, are not “plastic homes”, Majo argued, but are of high quality, exceeding Venezuelan health and safety standards.
“The Petrocasa system is in compliance with quality and safety standards. The residential units are anti-seismic, non-ﬂammable, durable… and hurricane resistant”, the Director assured.
Many organized residents, participating in the their grassroots community councils, have taken the initiative in preparing the grounds and erecting their new homes.
Neida Marin, a spokesperson for the community council Cacique Guacara in Carabobo, described the leadership role that activists have played in the transformation of their living environment.
“We, the organized community, received the dimensions and proﬁles of the Petrocasas and we created teams with the participation of men and women from the area. We put together our homes in stages and in less than a year we had an entire neighborhood built”, Marin said.
The activist informed that 530 Petrocasas have thus far been constructed in her residential area, substituting what were once ﬂimsy built shacks for new digniﬁed homes.
“This neighborhood is the product of a big struggle. The community council got organized and formulated the project and with the assistance of [the state petro-chemical company] Pequiven and the institutions involved, we could solidify the construction of our homes”, she declared.
Initiatives like Petrocasas and Caribia City are part of the reason why the Chavez administration will meet its goal in the coming months of constructing 153,000 homes in 2011, Housing and Habitat Minister Ricardo Molina reported last weekend.
“Our conviction is that we will meet the goal because, according to our calculations, many homes are in stage of being ﬁnished. Beginning in September, different construction processes throughout the country will be coming to a close”, Molina stated.