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The Housing Defence Council of the Legitimate Presidency in Mexico holds Forum

The Housing Defence Council (Consejo de Defensa de la Vivienda, CDV) held a Forum on the 7th August in Southern Mexico, dealing with ‘the analysis of legislative proposals’ concerning housing.

It took place in the town of Coatepec, in the state of Veracruz, specifically at the historic, ancient Zimpizahua hacienda. This was built in the XVIII century and is a place of extraordinary beauty, situated in the middle of a mesophile forest and coffee plantations, which produce a humid, temperate climate and striking mist. It should be noted that 157 local inhabitants attended and fully participated in the Forum.

On June 7th 2007, the Secretariat of Human Institutions and Housing (SAHUVI) of the Legitimate Presidency of Andrés Manuel López Obrador invited social groups to become involved in the creation of The Housing Defence Council (CDV), with the goal of defending the heritage of Mexican society. This was a response to the sale of the unpaid debts of the Institute of National Funding for Workers’ Housing (INFONAVIT) by Vicente Fox’s Federal Government to the North American company Capmark, who have spent 10 billion pesos for 48,843 houses. In practical terms, each home has been bought for 20,000 pesos, and Capmark intends to make 700,000 pesos on each. This could affect 240,000 people, who would find themselves deprived of their family legacies; Capmark could potentially earn a profit of 1,000% and evict around 50,000 families from their homes.

In response to this unjust, mercenary policy that turns homes into goods, and denies the universal right to housing, SAHUVI and member groups of the CDV have put together legislative proposals that recommend modifications to the law concerning INFONAVIT and FOVISSTE1 , changes to the operating rules of the National Housing Commission, changes to CONAVI and a constitutional contract for FONHAPO. The Forum held on 7th August in the Zimpizahua hacienda aimed to promote these legislative proposals.

The Forum was opened with a moving speech by Joaquin Alcántara, head of Barzón Coatepecaco, who outlined the strengths of the CDV and demanded a complete halt to expulsions. José Manuel Medina from SAHUVI then laid out the measures contained in the legislative proposals, and highlighted the main aim of stopping the policy of eviction led by the Government of Felipe Calderón. He also spoke out in favour of the essential protection of family heritage.

During the first round of speeches, Federal Congressman Cuauhtémoc Velasco spoke of his commitment to the CDV proposals concerning changing the law on INFONAVIT, looking to bring back its social responsibility and prevent Capmark from taking over the heritage of Mexicans. He referred to the illegality of the sale of unpaid debts mentioned earlier.

Federal Congressman Joaquin Vela spoke of the importance of supporting the legislative initiatives proposed by CDV to change the policy of privatisation in the ISSSTE law. He put forward a list of trade union mobilizationsopposed to this law that denies the social security gained in the 1910 Revolution, and reminded everyone that more than one million workers (both countryside and urban) died in this revolutionary uprising. He ended by underlining the pressing need to create a national front to stand up to the detrimental policies of the current illegal President of Mexico Felipe Calderón, and urged a revival of the social uprising represented by the National Coordination of Popular Urban Movement (CONAMUP).

Juanita Maria Toriz demonstrated in the second half of the Forum that the changes in law implemented by the Federal Government neither protect nor guarantee housing rights for the people of Mexico, whilst the proposals from the CDV would allow the urban development of towns and the protection of housing for both formal and informal workers. She urged those Congressmen present to work with the CDV to examine and approve the legislative proposals for the good of the people before the next meeting.

Alberto Robledo, architect and distinguished social scientist, reflected on the importance of putting the legislative proposals in a global context. He commented upon the lack of investigation into land access for housing, observing that the current Government was more interested in the issue of promoting real-estate than solving the housing problems of the population, and strongly condemning this blatantly money-led policy. He did however state that the legislative proposals by the CDV neglected to cover the law concerning evictions; in other words citizens in danger of being evicted from their homes by debt recovery firms should be legally able to buy back their homes at a price lower than the auction price. He claimed that real reform would need to be revolutionary, and demanded that the Federal Government allow all Mexicans to both profit from the laws and also enjoy the same rights as those granted to multinational organisations (i.e. buy homes at a low price) – all the opposite of the policies of the current regime which charges workers high prices at the same time as offering homes to real-estate multinationals at derisory prices.

The last speaker was Cristina Almazán, member of the UCISV2 -Pobladores and also of the International Alliance of Inhabitants. She underlined the dimensions of urban and housing issues, and noted that any legislation currently in place balances economic interests instead of tackling these issues. She reflected on the legislative proposals, stressing the need to integrate these initiatives addressing the issue of land shortages into a durable vision for the future, into a process of discussions on the re-population of towns and also against real-estate speculation.

She also stated that whilst she recognised the new law on housing, connected to the Social Production of housing, there did not exist any corresponding regulation, leading to a lack of transparency of the allocation process of nearly 4 billion pesos predicted in the Federal Budget. She criticised the fact that the Federal Mexican government carried on encouraging participation from businesses, and indeed financial intermediaries, in access to housing loans – a situation that will almost certainly lead to an increase in the problem of evictions due to loan repayment problems.

On behalf of the IAI, she suggested that the Legitimate Presidency should work more closely with the Zero Evictions Campaign, and contribute to the alarm system in place in Latin America. She called for a doubling of efforts, for better organisation on different levels, and with thousands of families in the world suffering the same problem, debates at international level on the subject of evictions in Mexico.

1 Funds for ISSSTE (Institute of Social Services and Security for State Workers) Housing

2 Union of Settlers, Tenants and Housing Seekers in Veracruz