Independent News from Alternative Sources
Despite facing many difficulties, Venezuela’s latest achievements in housing are a timely reminder of why our solidarity with Venezuela remains so important, writes Matt Willgress.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro recently inaugurated the 700,000th house built under a state-led initiative called the Great Housing Mission to provide housing to all Venezuelans, continuing the impressive results of a public housing program began in 2010 under late President Hugo Chavez, which has continued to deliver for Venezuelans despite the economic difficulties the country has faced in recent years.
Speaking at the announcement of the 700,000th home, President Maduro announced that the program now aims to build hundreds of thousands of new houses both this year and next, hoping to surpass 1 million new homes by 2016.
In states such as Carabobo, the new homes are situated in urban areas with schools, sports fields, subsided food markets and other services to help meet the population’s needs.
Indeed, nearly half of Venezuela’s population will be living in free or low cost housing provided by the government by the end of the decade, planning Minister Ricardo Menendez has said this month.
This rapid development of state-provided homes has prompted the government to form a high-level commission to explore creating new styles of cities in the long term, with people’s public services and green spaces integrated more into planning, with the minister saying, “By 2019, we will have 40 percent of the population living in Great Housing Mission (GMV) homes, and we will have a golden opportunity … to redesign the concept of the city.”
One of the government’s urban planning priorities in the next period will be how to best distribute homes built under the programme as it expands.
The mission was first launched to provide housing for Venezuelans who lost their homes in the devastating 2010 floods. However, since then the GMV has been expanded to provide housing to the wider population, meaning it also poses more challenges as well as opportunities for the Government.
In 2011, then-President Hugo Chavez explained the mission would address the “social debt” left behind by former governments that failed to provide quality housing to all Venezuelans. The houses are offered either for free, or at a low cost and are fully furnished and equipped.
When the housing program was began, it was explicitly aimed at not only addressing a longstanding social need created by chronic underinvestment from previous governments (ran incidentally by Venezuela’s current right-wing opposition,) but also at stimulating the economy in the aftermath of the global economic slowdown, so its expansion in future years will no doubt be much welcomed across Venezuela.
With global oil prices at a low level, Venezuela – as the holder of the world’s largest proven oil reserves and a continuing target on theUS’ hitlist for regime change – is facing many economic difficulties. These have been exacerbated an ‘economic war’ from opponents of the Government using their wealth and economic power to undermine the elected Government in a way reminiscent of Chile prior to the coup in the 1970s, and indeed economic policy mistakes recognised by the Government itself.
But the Government’s clear priority of putting people first and determination to continue to protect – and where possible expand – social programmes should remain an inspiration to us all and remind us of why we should step up our solidarity with social progress in Venezuela at a time of renewed US hostility.
Author: Matt Willgress