On a national television programme broadcast live on 30 April 2011, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez launched Venezuela’s new housing mission – “La Gran Misión Vivienda”.
Vowing to build 2 million houses in the next seven years in order to address the country’s housing deficit, the Venezuelan Head of State signed a document handing over 2000 hectares of land to the mission live on air.
Citing the exclusion and underdevelopment produced by capitalism and Venezuela’s colonial experience as the principal causes of the housing crisis, Chávez stated that “the housing problem cannot be solved from within the capitalist system – here we are going to solve it with socialism and more socialism”.
During the programme, Chávez stated that the goal for this year is to build 150,000 houses, with this figure increasing to 200,000 in 2012 and to 300,000 every year after that until 2017.
The signed document contains details of the longitude, latitude and coordinates of the plots of land that comprise the “17 Housing and Residence Vital Areas” (AVIVIR), land that will be transferred to the neediest Venezuelans in the form of ‘multi-family’ property.
A Great Effort
“Building 2 million houses in 7 years…Of course we’ll do it, but with great effort” said Chávez.
Venezuela’s Minister of Energy and Petroleum, Rafael Ramirez, also added that “we have called on the whole country to resolve this problem, which has caused our people to be submerged in the abyss of insecurity…the housing crisis will only be resolved with the mobilisation of the people and the whole nation.”
The Venezuelan government strongly emphasised that citizens should take an active role in resolving the crisis and encouraged the formation of voluntary communal construction brigades to do so.
“Nobody knows how to build houses better than the people…if we want to put an end to poverty, then we must give power to the poor. This is the main principle of the socialist revolution” said Chávez.
The private banking sector will also be expected to participate by providing half of the 30 billion Bolivars ($6.98 billion US) that the government requires for the mission this year, with government revenue supplying the other 50%.
The Venezuelan government has also petitioned the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) to lower the legal reserve requirement by 2-3%.
The Housing “Deficit”
The Housing Mission’s principal aim is to provide decent and affordable housing for Venezuelan families who are either living in unsafe conditions or who do not currently own their own homes.
A shortage of adequate housing in Venezuela has been a serious problem for a number of years; the intense rural-urban migration of the 20th century generated an abandoned countryside and a wealth of highly concentrated and precariously assembled barrio houses in the surrounding hills of Caracas.
However, despite the fact that 60% of the population live in and around Caracas, Chávez declared that the “model in which we are living must be progressively disassembled,” emphasising that housing developments must take place on a national level.
Although the government has previously attempted to address the problem through measures such as; Misión Habitat, Misión Villanueva and the Petrocasas project, this is the first time that a housing mission on this scale has been launched.
Last November the crisis became more acute when heavy rains destroyed many people’s homes, leaving thousands of Venezuelans displaced and unable to leave state-run shelters. The government has stated that these citizens will be the first to benefit from the new housing mission.
However, the mission is not just limited to the construction of houses; for example, Article 18 of the mission’s legal framework set out in February stipulates the creation of ‘multi-family’ properties and obligates the state to provide appropriate infrastructure and services to new housing communities. This includes; social programs, food distribution systems, child-care facilities, public schools and primary health care centres, among other social services.
Practically, the mission is separated into five different stages; national registration, land registration, assembly of construction companies, financing and material, and technology evaluation.
National registration begins this coming Saturday the 7th of May, with registration carried out by brigadistas at designated points in 243 of the nation’s Plaza Bolivars.
Leaflets describing the registration process in four easy steps have been distributed by the government in preparation for Saturday’s launch. Heads of families will be expected to present themselves at a registration point with their cédula (national identity card), register their fingerprints and provide details of their family; including names, occupations and any disabilities, as well as describing their current housing situation. This procedure is designed so that the state can prioritise those citizens who are in most need.
On Tuesday, Chávez suggested that in order to make the process more comprehensive, registration should not just be carried out geographically, but also a via sectors of society.
“It occurs to me now that registration shouldn’t just be geographical, but ‘sectorial’. For example, including unions, workers organisations, factories, employees, so as to make the registration process much more extensive,” he said.