Yesterday, the Lower House unanimously passed a bill aimed at urbanizing 4,228 shanty towns (villas) throughout the country. The initiative was put forward by the government and, if passed by the Senate, would expropriate the land where these precarious settlements are located in order to divide them and give the residents formal property deeds of the place where they currently living. Moreover, the plan aims at urbanizing the aforementioned shanty towns – i.e pave roads, grant them formal access to an electric grid and running water, to name a few examples.
The initiative was actually conceived 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.
The project will undertake the tremendous task of outlining a plan to start remedying these deprivations. 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 the mentioned basic services, as well as education or health benefits. The plan also prevents law enforcement from evicting residents from the settlement.