Urban Land Committees of Venezuela Demand Law Reform

Mérida, October 15th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Saturday Urban Land Committee spokespeople from across Venezuela met in Caracas to demand the approval of a reform to the Law of Regularisation of Urban Land Tenancy, which would transfer private housing to occupying families and recognise collective property ownership.

The Urban Land Committees are community based organisations that struggle for and organise urban land tenancy, the right to housing, and the right to dignity in barrios and residential areas. They were first formed in 2002.

"We, as Urban Land Committees, demand that the proposed reform to the Law of Regularisation of Urban Land Tenancy be approved quickly, as we have been struggling since 2006… for the recognition of the property of families who occupy private land," the Committees said in a statement.

The National Assembly passed the Tenancy law in 2006, which, among other things, stipulated the norms for granting tenancy to barrio and settlement dwellers. It stipulated 10 years living in private property before legal permanency can be granted, and that illegal land occupations would not be recognised.

Also, last August an Urban Land Law was passed, which put unused urban land at the service of the public.

A central point in the law reform is the transfer of private property to families who have been occupying it and who have added value to it through their own labour. It also recognises other forms of land ownership, such as family property and collective property.

"On 23 September thousands of residents of communities across the country mobilised in front of the National Assembly, to support the revolutionary laws approved by that legislative power, and also to request the rapid approval of the reform to the [Urban Tenancy Law]," the Committees asserted in their statement.

"At that time the legislators committed to receive our demands. But [weeks] later we observe with concern the delay in the discussion of the reform. Further, we’re worried that some sectors are trying to ignore important proposals, such as the administrative prescription of private land, which are central in making the process of regularisation effective and of guaranteeing the right to housing to many Venezuelan families," the statement continued.

"The reform allows us to effectively challenge the large urban land owners… and further, guarantees rights to the millions of families who live on private land, and who, until now, haven’t been able to obtain recognition of their right to tenancy of the land and the legal security of their housing," said the statement.

In a similar statement that the committees put out before their 23 September march, they also expressed concern that the law still recognises the market value of land and it "opens the doors to the criminalisation of the barrios" and doesn’t provide means for the popular participation "necessary in the struggle against the urban large land owners."

Approximately 3 million homes in Venezuela were made by their inhabitants, often on steep, risky land, and there is a housing shortage of 1.8 million homes.

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