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Post by Marines Pocaterra

2015 marks the 15th anniversary of Informal Settlements Rehabilitation Plan in Venezuela “Plan de Regularizacion de Barrios”. It was designed to integrate existing informal settlements within the standards of urban grids.

By 1999 Academic sectors had prepared the way to recognition of self-produced housing. 20 years ago its count already doubled the government housing production. Risk area studies, updated layouts  of informality, participative projects, self-administration  and even financing schemes, were setup and ready to pursue the ambitious goal of upgrading urban pockets to regular or even special  urban standards.

The cost was estimated in 35 mmm $ country wide and World Bank had started tutoring the first pilot programs.

Today,  after highest incomes in decades have evaporated in Venezuela, a joint study by academics from 3 relevant universities UCV, USB UCAB   “Encuesta Nacional de Condiciones de Vida 2014” ENCOVI “National Survey of living conditions 2014”  reveals 50% of the country’s population is exposed to factors of vulnerability. 15 million homes continue to stand on risk officially declared areas.

The original plans where directed by the academic sector with long range work on the matter, but after 2004, they were progressively assigned to military direction; political propaganda was disguised within the political slogans ‘Mision Barrio Nuevo and Barrio Tricolor’, which mainly handed materials to informal builders. Forced eviction areas where soon abandoned and rapidly replenished with new occupants, while supporting new invasions.

Government informal area policy has multiplied the extent and character of informal areas through last decade, instead of harnessing or reducing the existing risks. Little investment was made to supply adequate infrastructure to those areas.

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Are irresponsible urban policies leading to emergencies, to poverty? To unchecked violence?

Factors of risk depend on risk management systems, which explain the difference in victim counts in similar events as Haiti and Chile’s earthquakes.

To communities in high risk, information is the basic element to improve safety. According to the survey, almost 90% of people have no information or prevention instruction, also any alarm systems or evacuation plans. People fail to identify water leaks with landslide risks or collapsing soils.  ENCOVI finds that although 15.2 million citizens are exposed to conditions of high or very high vulnerability but rarely associate risk signals to habitat emergencies,

Technical support: projects for low income must follow technical requirements which have been overlooked by official projects,

Legal tenancy: frequently the homeless receive houses but not legal property and cannot defend their ownership rights from violent bands which decide who can dwell on the premises.

In only 2 years, poverty  levels receded to the worst index of two decades,  in spite of the  recent petro-boom.  Development depends on professional/participative urban planning not on high income as the Venezuelan case points out.

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