The encounter, led by Vice President Nicolas Maduro and the Chair of the nation’s Housing Commission, Rafael Ramirez, took place in the capital of Caracas and addressed the government’s strategy to meet the ambitious goal of building three million homes in the South American country by 2019.
Such a goal, Ramirez affirmed, can and will be met if the community and the government work together. “In the years 2011 and 2012, the Bolivarian government together with the people reached the goal of building 350,000 homes... This year, we have an extraordinary goal of 380,000 homes”, said the Commission Chair and also Venezuelan Oil Minister.
Since the birth of the social program Mission Housing Venezuela in 2011, the Chavez administration has been responsible for facilitating the construction of some 480 homes every day in Venezuela. “That’s to say, 20 homes per hour and three per minute”, Ramirez stated.
But to guarantee that the housing efforts continue to reach established targets, government officials expressed the necessity for greater regional coordination.
As such, Friday’s meeting focused on how to better articulate local organizations and governing bodies with national policies. A timeline to meet targets is also being created.
“This will permit us to plan in detail, state by state and municipality by municipality, the distribution of these 380 thousand homes that will benefit thousands of Venezuelans”, Ramirez said during the meeting.
In total, Mission Housing Venezuela has seen an investment of more than 98 billion bolivars ($22 billion) over the past two years and represents one of the boldest initiatives of the Chavez government to date.
Over three million tons of cement, a million tons of steel and 753 million concrete and brick blocks have been used for the program, prompting a growth in the nation’s construction sector from 5 percent to 16.8 percent of Venezuela’s GDP.
“It’s important to point out the amount of resources that have been invested in this mission by the revolution and President Chavez”, Minister Ramirez said.
Key to the mission’s success has been the work carried out by community members who through local councils have organized themselves to build 36 percent of the 350,000 homes constructed since 2011.
Housing and Habitat Minister Ricardo Molina is expecting to see that percentage rise significantly in the coming year. “This year, people are going to be responsible for the completion of 62 percent. This is an enormous jump and we’re sure that we’re going to be able to attain it due to the level of organization that has been developing in the country”, Molina said during Friday’s meeting.
One of the most organized states has been that of Yaracuy where grassroots community councils have built over five thousand new homes in the past year and a half.
One of the residents who participated in the mission is Griselda Mendoza, mother of two, who registered for the program once the original housing census was carried out in 2011.
“When the people get organized, the results are extraordinary. I have my home thanks to the fact that the people are now managing the policies of the state. That’s something that didn’t happen before because those who governed played with supply and demand to the benefit of certain groups”, Mendoza said during the delivery of 34 new living units in the mid western state.
Maria Yovera, another beneficiary from the same state, echoed Mendoza’s sentiments.
“I have two little girls who live with me in a shack that used to get drenched when it rains and we didn’t have anywhere to go. With the help of the community council, I was able to secure my home through Mission Housing Venezuela. Today has changed my life and the lives of my children”, Yovera said.
While thousands of ordinary Venezuelans have benefited from the government’s program, Minister Molina highlighted the fact that families affected by coastal flooding and heavy rains are being given priority in the housing construction.
“[There are] 11,500 families that entered into shelters at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 and that are still there. But by April this year, they all should be in their new homes”, Molina said.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro reiterated this point in a speech given to the participants of last week’s plenary where he explained the need to “work twice as hard” for the program initiated by President Hugo Chavez. “Doing this for [Chavez] is the same as doing it for the people”, Maduro said.
The VP also explained that the mission is available for all Venezuelans, including the middle class who the second-in command said can “count on the Bolivarian government”. Maduro encouraged residents to communicate housing deficits through an 800 number established by the government to receive and classify the population’s needs.
Residents must also “go to the large cities such as Caracas where people are living in mountain precipices and in poor conditions” in order to better plan the next steps of the program for the coming years.
Outreach efforts such as these, the Vice President affirmed, is why the government will reach its overall goal by 2019. “We are fulfilling the commitment of Mission Housing Venezuela...We have established a powerful machine in which we work together with the people”, he confirmed.