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Access to adequate housing in Bolivia’s new constitution

February 18, 2009




Access to habitat and adequate housing is now considered a fundamental human right by the new Bolivian Constitution.

The new Bolivian Constitution not only recognizes, but also enhances the fundamental human rights of indigenous people. The change is a clear demonstration of the new political priority to include this group in policy—a majority community which has until recently been marginalized by most government programs.

Among the new rights described in the constitution, adequate housing is stressed as a priority of the Bolivian administration. This opens the door for the most vulnerable groups in Bolivia to gain access to adequate housing solutions through concrete projects carried out on a local level. The constitution illustrates the components of adequate housing, based on principles of accessibility, equality and social justice. In addition, Article 19 of the new constitution allows local governments to compete for promotion of social-interest housing plans, and Article 20 guarantees the provision of basic services.

What’s next?
For Habitat for Humanity Bolivia, and for all those who share the cause of adequate housing, the constitutional inclusion of the right to adequate housing represents a major challenge. With this accomplished, however, it must also be made feasible. According to Habitat Bolivia, this means that country must move quickly to accomplish the following: build housing policies that are specific, and are related to urban development; intervene in the land-sales market; expand the housing debate to include the quality of social housing in terms of both habitability and equality; and reformulate juridical tools for the social production of housing.

An immediate task in Bolivia, and specifically for the National Network of Human Settlements (RENESEH), is to influence the current administration to re-organize the executive branch of the government in a way that will favor the creation of a Housing and Basic Services Fund—which has previously been low-priority compared to other ministries.

RANESH celebrated the new constitutional right to adequate housing with a march, and recently participated in the World Social Forum, held in Belem, Brazil on January 29, 2009. The seminar “Strategies on regional articulation for the implementation of right to the city,” part of the World Social Forum framework, received significant coverage by local media. In addition, the cities of Cochabamba and La Paz circulated information about the World Social Forum, its objectives, challenges and scope.

Habitat for Humanity Bolivia, through the National Network of Human Settlements, also circulated information about the World Social Forum on a national level, linking the event to a seminar on Latin American construction strategies.

Alejandra Dominguez is the Political Advocacy Specialist for Habitat for Humanity Bolivia.