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Santo Domingo: 1.52% of GDP to overcome housing deficit

Santo Domingo, 19 February 2012. More than one hundred representatives from various organisations, including urban, country, cooperatives, trade unions, women, youths and nongovernmental met for the workshop meeting “On public policies of finance and social investment, focusing on popular housing and the security of tenure” held in the meeting room of the Bono Centre in the City of Santo Domingo. They agreed to introduce a process of policy advocacy for policies on housing, land and security of tenure, as well as a social investment equivalent to 1.52% of GDP.

The event was attended by 51 organisations and was coordinated by COOPHABITAT – the Cooperative of Social Production of Housing and Habitat and the Zero Evictions Antena branch of IAI – the International Alliance of Inhabitants, with the organisations: Urban Popular Network, National Campesina Organisation and Citizens Forum, with the NGO’s that have been following the Alternative City process: Cedail and Ideac, as a continuation of the process of debate regarding financial alternatives which was started at the meetings of October 2011, and resumed on 27 January 2012 at a meeting between NGO’s and financial agencies.

The Debate on Popular Funds  for the Financing of Housing and Land  

The event began by touching on the crude Dominican reality characterised by a pyrrhic social investment in the national budget which has been falling in relation to the GDP, going from 1.75% in 1975 to 0.08% in 2011. The lack of investment in housing has allowed that, in spite of the fact that the country has had an average macroeconomic increase of around 7% in the last 50 years; it is one of the lowest Latin American countries in terms of Human Development, according to the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). Nelson Suarez from the citizen’s forum lectured on these points.

The repercussions of the lack of social and public investment policies on housing and land is shown in the following situation: Housing deficit of one million, 96 thousand (60% qualitative), 75% of housing is self-built, with less than 50% of families owning the land on which they built their houses. And where the most important indicator of the violation of the right to housing is forced eviction, where families are removed from their homes that they built and have lived in for more than 50 years. Their belongings are stolen and destroyed and their rights to compensation, made legal by the State through the state lawyer of property jurisdiction, are not recognised. Santos Mota of COOPHABITAT emphasised this and the community initiatives.

Financial Sources for Housing and Land Policies  

The proposals resulting from the Study of practicality on the creation of a Popular Fund for housing and land carried out by IAI in 2007, which indicated that with an investment of 4.4% of GDP in only ten years the housing deficit of the country could be overturned. The State would only have to begin by contributing the equivalent of 1.52% of GDP in the country’s General Budget. Pedro Franco, acting on behalf of IAI gave a recap of the findings of the study since 2007.

The well-off families would bring well over 50% of these resources, funds for rent (in 2002 these were 28% of families), charges imposed on owners of abandoned land and lavish property, a percentage of pension funds applicable to housing for workers, the creation of a bank of state land, making an inventory of declarations of public use, stopping the privatisation of such land, amongst others, this could be a viable source. But the issue of housing is not only an urban problem; it is also very common in the countryside, as stated by Quintino de los Santos of the Campesina Organisation.

External debt must play  an important role in the financing  

Public debt of the Dominican Republic was considered to be more than 22 thousand million dollars, of which nearly 12 thousand million is represented by external debt. Within this debt there is that, such as that of Petrocaribe which involve funds for investment that don’t apply. It is understood that it is necessary to insist that external debt be cancelled or written off in order to prioritise the financing of social investment, including investment in housing and security of tenure. Francisco Checo of IDEAC nationalitised the topic.

Microfinance , Demonstrative Models and Cooperatives

The issue of the limitations of funds coming from microfinance as a way of overcoming the social debt of the country in this area was debated. However, it was maintained that these could help to produce demonstrative pilot models that could serve as a basis for policy advocacy, presenting to the State these initiatives that could be a reference for high quality, prioritised social investment. Santos Mota of Coophabitat and Analis Santos of COPADEBA and the Urban Network revealed the experiences of the developed organisations in the province of Santo Domingo and the National District.

It is indicated that housing cooperatives make a good example for these demonstrative practices. They have several values and principles of solidarity that, when applied, apart from the paternalism and pragmatism of the people, are mobilising agents of popular saving. This, when joined to the microcredit funds can guarantee the effectiveness of demonstrative action, and once established, the public finance policies have well-off families as a suitable source.

The cooperatives are required to conform to and follow the principles and values of solidarity, with a strong education training, considered by the Pioneers since 1844 and the 5th principle of the cooperativism as the ‘golden rule’.  On the other hand, it could fall into paternalism. COOPHABITAT, founded on the basis of knowledge of European, Canadian and Latin American cooperative movements should serve as an example for emerging cooperatives to follow. It is indicated that more than 100 of their leaders, members and social activists of the communities have received training on housing cooperatives for mutual help and for landowners, by qualified technicians with successful experiences, such as Coralli (Italy), Fucvam (Uruguay) and those of Argentina, Venezuela and Central America driven by Selvip and the Sweden Cooperative Center.

A Discussion table for Funds for Social investment in Housing and Land

The organisations believe that the proposed creation of the Fund for Housing and Land is the most appropriate way for channelling prioritised social investment, considering community participation as a fundamental axis. In order for this to happen all social sectors need to work together, indicating the coordination of them all in the mark of the citizens Forum as a praiseworthy place with a consensual agenda.

Consequently they agree to:

  1.  To drive the common agenda of the sectors, prioritising complementarity over competency, seeking to create co alignment by prioritising social investment.
  2.  To bring about the creation of a discussion table of this sector, the state, and other sectors in favour of the compliance of the common agenda for priority social investment.
  3.  To include in the common agenda the creation of the Fund for the Financing of Popular Housing, 1.52% of GDP for housing and land and the laws presented by the Popular Urban network, the National Campesina Organisation and the Solidarity Economic Network (REDESOL).


The Volunteer translator for housing rights without frontiers of IAI who has collaborated on the translation of this text was:

Lucy Hardinge


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