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What’s happening with Venezuela's housing policy?

By Veneconomy

15.06.05 | A few weeks ago, President Hugo Chávez gave Minister of Housing and Habitat Julio Montes a public dressing down because of something that it was no longer possible to hide: the revolution’s failure to solve the housing problem.

In the more than six years that the Bolivarian government has been in office, spending on housing has dropped dramatically, while social spending has skyrocketted. According to figures published by SISOV (Venezuela’s Integrated System of Social Indicators), social spending on housing accounted for 4.9% of total social spending in 2004, compared to 11.8% in 1998. This is inconceivable if account is taken of the fact that, as SISOV itself states, the revolution’s social spending has gone up by a spectacular 487% over that same period (from more than Bs.4 billion in 1998 to more than Bs.24 billion in 2004). So, which areas have been receiving the funds disbursed as social spending?

According to the Venezuelan Construction Chamber and taking account of the growth of Venezuela’s population, they should be building 110,000 housing units a year, yet the sad fact is that, between 1999 and 2003, the number of homes built fell from 31,090 to 8,811, with a slight upturn in 2004 and 2005 to date, giving a total of only 21,000 plus homes for that combined period.

Now the government has announced that it will rectify part of this obvious failure of its housing policy with a replacement program of housing solutions, which is still on the drawing board. According to information given to the press by the Ministry of Housing, this program will focus mainly on plots that have already developed in the provinces and it will be carried out by state governments and mayoralties. It is planned to provide 39,000 of the 120,000 units scheduled for 2005 under this program.

What some analysts would like to know is who are the owners of these plots of land that have already been developed? Are they private property or state-owned? Will things be handled the same way as INTI dealt with the rural lands, by confiscating and expropriating urban land? Some even fear that they could go as far as confiscating or permitting the illegal occupation of apartments and houses.

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