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The Housing Rents Drama in Caracas

The Right to Housing and the City.

The Metropolitan Network of Tenants, The Tenants’ Network, The Urban Land Committees, the United Superintendents of Venezuela and the Pioneers’ Camp (La Red Metropolitana de Inquilinos, La Red de Inquilinos, Los Comités de Tierra Urbana, Conserjes Unidos por Venezuela y los Campamentos de Pioneros) are organizations fighting against evictions and for the right to housing. They have created a united platform and decided to fight to end the speculation coming from real estate companies, particularly in Caracas, where the housing deficit has reached close to 1 million families.

In March, this united platform launched a campaign against evictions, under the “Zero Evictions Campaign” banner, involving denouncing the ongoing threat of losing the right to housing faced by thousands of families, taking action in the streets, and proposing legal reforms to stop forced evictions and real estate speculation.

The Zero Evictions Campaign

The campaign is affiliated with the international campaign, which the International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAI) launched three years ago in several countries around the planet. The campaign aims to end forced evictions as is stipulated by the International Agreement on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which Venezuela signed; confront real estate speculation, which is the real cause of the vulnerability and threat faced in many areas of the city; and to promote access to decent housing.

“It involves guaranteeing the right to housing: who has it, and won’t lose it, who doesn’t quite have it, like the inhabitants of the barrios (slums), who have it in an integrated way, guaranteeing services and adequate living conditions, and who doesn’t have it, who can expect it,” declared the platform’s speakers.

The international campaign began at the 4th World Urban Forum through the International Alliance of Inhabitants. It is a social organization that unites movements from around the world with the objective of eradicating forced evictions, which threaten 700 million people. The IAI collaborates with the United Nations Advisory Group on Forced Evictions (UN-AGFE). The campaign is currently taking place in 30 countries throughout Africa, North America, Latin America, and Europe.

In Venezuela, the fight for the right to housing and the city has brought together several distinct social organizations, like the Urban Land Committees (CTU), the superintendents, the tenants and even those not directly involved in housing.

Their immediate objectives are to repeal the Real Estate Leasing Law, to repeal the articles in the Penal Code, which punish occupation with a prison sentence, not to mention legally impeding forced evictions, and to replace them with peaceful and consensual agreements, which allow for alternatives to when it becomes necessary to leave a building. At the same time, they are proposing a plan against real estate speculation, which will allow for access to dignified housing for those that do not enjoy that right.

A proposal for Constitutional Reform

The committees came to discuss a proposal, which would complement and improve article 82 of the current constitution. The amendments to Article 82 would provide the right to housing, define the concept of adequate housing, guaranteeing legal security for occupation in all it’s forms; the eradication of violent evictions; the availability of services; affordable and culturally appropriate housing; the harmonic relationship with the environment; and a habitat, which satisfies the needs of social life.

The proposal would also establish the shared responsibility between the state and communities for self-managed and co-managed development projects for protecting existing housing, confronting speculation and massive evictions, improving barrios and low-income communities, and the development of new urban settlements.

Moreover, it would guarantee access to urban land and give priority to low-income families and vulnerable areas, as well as to residents affected by physical and social risk, the elderly, people with disabilities, and those whose livelihoods depend on their dwelling, such as the superintendents.

Furthermore, the proposal will incorporate the right to the city, a right demanded by urban people’s organizations from around the world, and that has been stated in the World Charter for the Right to the City approved at the 2005 World Social Forum.

According to the proposal, all citizens would have the right to a dignified habitat, democratic participation in the planning and management of policy, plans and projects, which affect the urban habitat, and also would establish the function of urban spaces, independent of its public or private character, by defining methods against speculation and other uses of urban land.

The proposal also establishes the basis for communal self-management, giving the normative footing to new forms of community-based power, as has been specifically developed by the thrust of the Community Councils.

The Right to Dignified Housing and the Right to the City continue following the gist a profound social debt left by the Fourth Republic and that the revolutionary government has strongly confronted, though not without great legal and technical difficulties, which remain to be solved.

The fundamental elements to confront are: the speculative control over rental and leasing prices, on behalf or real estate companies, and the absence of the capacity to take on massive housing construction by private construction companies.

The Caracan Housing Tenants Drama