Uh Ah Chavez – Venezuela and Urban Housing

Thanks to Jenifer Kaminsky for the heads up on this one. I think she attended a conference on information sharing between Venezuela and New Orleans on urban housing.  Josh Lerner wrote an article/critique on the particpatory nature of the urban housing program.

It is exciting to understand how funding, planning and project execution come together in a unique way at the central government, local government and sub-neighborhood level. In the case below it looks like project planning and execution happens at the level closest to the people. To complement local efforts, coordination, funding and ?technical expertise? remains at the ?local? central government level. (It reminds me a bit of the rice project I wrote about before). Would this approach work in African cities like, Freetown, Sierra Leone or Harare, Zimbabwe?

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Venezuela Analysis has a Sept 12, ‘o5 article (Gregory Wilpert) on the ‘housing revolution’ in Venezuela. On February 4, 2002 Venezuela created Urban Land Committees (CTU). To summarize his article, Venezuela allowed the titling of land which in turn served as a catalyst for change in barrios. Allowing land titling has led to the ‘mobilization of over 5,000 land committees, representing a total population of more than 5 million Venezuelans, or 20% of the population.’

According to Wilpert, ‘The land committees, however, have evolved to do much more than just measure land and process title claims. The technical office encourages them to write a “barrio charter,” which lays out the history of that particular barrio and the community’s rules and principles. In addition, land committees have begun to form sub-committees that deal with public utility companies, such as water and electricity supply, sewage and garbage disposal, the organization of cultural events, the management of security concerns, the initiation of neighborhood improvement projects, and other issues. Most importantly, though, the CTUs empower communities in an unprecedented way, giving them a real sense of ownership over their habitat.’

In 2004 the CTUs brought a proposal to the Ministry of Housing to create the Participation Centers for the Transformation of Housing, CPTH. CPTHs will consist of adjacent CTUs, associations, health committees and technical water committees. CPTHs will partner directly with the government, Ministry of housing and government bodies who fund projects to disburse funds directly to the CPTHs.

Wilpert says that, ‘More important, though, for solving Venezuela’s housing crisis, is a new proposal that has yet to be approved, which is to create new settlements. That is, the CPTHs are proposing to the government to aid in controlled land invasions. When a community realizes that it is running out of space in its neighborhood, it would have the local CPTH ask the Housing Ministry for land that families could settle in an organized manner, to build their own homes on this new land, with government support. Such new settlements would be called “pioneer camps.”‘

See also: ZNet , MIT Community Action Planning

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