Can we be optimistic?
post by Silvia Soonets
Last weeks have been really complicated in Venezuela. We have been protagonist of the news all around the world. The situation is still unsolved, and not being a politician I am nobody to predict what could happen. It is, of course, too early to announce the Revolution is over, but I feel it is maybe not premature trying to guess what the lessons learned are and what changes are here for good.
Just before the election, I attended to the annual convention of the National Real Estate Council. This institution represents most of the real estate brokers and almost all the big residential developers. It is easy to imagine that they are mostly conservative, profit centered people.
I was surprised, then, when all the speakers dealing with housing issues stated that our huge housing shortage cannot be addressed without dealing with the informal settlements, and that in our “barrios” lay an important piece of the solution. And even more amazed when the audience accepted these ideas willingly.
The ideas that the “barrios” should be upgraded and improved, and that it is foolish to believe that it is possible to eradicate them have been around for many years in sociologic and professional circles. But now the people who used to build and sell most of the formal houses accept those believes as facts. For someone like me, that have dreamt with upgrading settlements for ten years, and that have explained why it is important to these very same people, the change is encouraging.
What has happened? I have no idea.
I suppose that the failure of the recent “Mision Vivienda” have influence. If the government did not succeeded in reaching the goals set in number of units built, even having all the power, all the money, no permits and no limits, it should be accepted that nobody could. Improving the informal houses could cut the shortage in half. Improving the “barrios” could create a massive new real estate market. And then the efforts in built new units could concentrate in quality, not only quantity.
Some of my not so optimist friends say that maybe there are other good business that I cannot see, or that the market is so little and the new houses so few that there are no other things to talk about. Other suggests that some of the new laws make so difficult to build in formal areas that the informal ones look appealing.
Is this shift a purely Venezuelan affair? Or it is happening elsewhere?