The Argentine Senate passed a bill yesterday aimed at urbanizing 4,228 shanty towns (locally known as villas) throughout the country. The initiative was unanimously passed by the Lower House in May, and aims at expropriating the land where these settlements are located in order to divide them and give its roughly 850,000 residents formal property deeds of the place where they are currently living.
Moreover, the plan aims at urbanizing them as well – i.e pave roads, grant them formal access to the electric grid and running water.
The initiative was originally drafted in August 2016, when the Social Development Ministry led by Carolina Stanley, in coordination with the largest social organizations, began conducting a nationwide census aimed at determining the precise number of shanty towns existing in the country, as well as the number of people living in them.
The census, called National Register for the Popular Neighborhoods in Process of Urban Integration, found out that more than 3.5 million people live in these 4,228 villas, which span across 415.5 square kilometers – twice the size of the City of Buenos Aires. Furthermore, the registry indicates that 99 percent of these people don’t have sewers, 94 percent don’t have running water and 70.5 percent don’t have access to an energy and/or gas grid.
Regarding employment, the survey indicates that only 16 percent of residents work on the formal side of the economy, while 22 percent does so informally. Moreover, 34 percent is looking for a job, and 24 percent is neither looking for a job or studying.
The project will undertake the tremendous task of reinserting them in the jobs market and provide them with decent living conditions. First of all, the federal government will have to reach agreements with the country’s 24 jurisdictions – the 23 provinces and the City of Buenos Aires – meaning transfer the lands where the settlements are located, so it can then grant it to the residents.
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. This certificate will be accredited to prove the existence and veracity of the residence, so that the address can be used to apply for employment, for example. Moreover, residents will be able to request access to basic services, as well as education or health benefits. The plan also prevents law enforcement from evicting residents from the settlement.