The government has presented a bill to Congress outlining its plans to urbanize the many shanty towns (known as villas) throughout the entire country, following the census carried out two years ago.
Working with a number of NGOs and neighborhood associations, the government started to determine the number of settlements in the country in August 2016. Created by the Macri administration, the National Register for the Popular Neighborhood, led by Carolina Stanley’s Ministry of Social Development, counted a total 4,228 villas in Argentina.
These neighborhoods are defined as settlements “of at least eight families living in proximity, where more than half of the population lacks official property deeds and stable access to two or more basic services (running water, electricity with meter, and/or sewer networks).”
In total, the villas spread over 415.5 square kilometers, or twice the size of the entire city of Buenos Aires. Today, more than 3,500,000 Argentines live in these areas that often lack basic services such as running water, electricity, and access to healthcare.
Buenos Aires Province has the highest amount of settlements, with 1,656; in comparison, La Pampa has only four.
The law expects to urbanize the settlements, making the inhabitants legal owners of their home and proprieties. The initiative also wants the buildings located within the villas to be declared of “public utility and [therefore] subject to expropriation.”
The state would work conjointly with the provinces and the municipalities to finance these projects and to compensate those who are transferred during the works. The creation of a trust contract is also planned, in order to avoid any evictions during a period of two years.
The Ministry is also going to provide, thanks to the urbanization works, access to basic public services. According to the National Register, 93.81 percent of villa residents don’t have running water, 98.81 percent don’t have access to the sewer system, 70.69 percent are without electricity, and 98.49 percent without natural gas.
According to the government, the process “could take years.” The initiative to transfer property ownership will indeed take a while, as it will be done through a “certificate of family residence,” delivered in person after a meeting with the members of the National Register – so far 100,000 people have undertaken the process. This certificate will be accredited to prove the existence and veracity of the residence, so that the address can be used to apply for work, for example. Moreover, residents will be able to request education or health benefits.
In August 2016, Argentina’s villas made international media headlines when Buenos Aires announced the urbanization plans for Villa 31, perhaps the most recognized and prominent with 40,000 inhabitants, via the Treinta y Todos (“Thirty and Everyone”) initiative. From this process, Argentina intends to apply the model to the rest of the country.