Law 341 and Programa de Autogestión de Vivienda (Self-Management Housing Program)
In its housing self-management program, the city of Buenos Aires funds and enables associations and cooperatives to provide housing. The program symbolizes a new era of social housing programming and can form the basis for transforming the country’s approach to solving its housing deficit. Limitations for scaling-up include difficulties securing land and lack of government experience running self-managed housing programs.
Background and Key Principles
Like Brazil, Argentina has a strong history and network of civil society actors and social movements. Social movements like Movimiento de Ocupantes e Inquilinos-Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina (Squatters’ and Tenants’ Movement, now formally integrated with the Argentine Workers’ Central Union, or MOI-CTA), a labor union of non-traditional workers including the unemployed, informal sector, sex workers, neighborhood associations, informal settlements, piquetero groups, and others have long advocated for the urban poor and the right to housing — especially in the urban core — since the 1980s. MOI’s “mission of cooperation, self-management, collective ownership, mutual aid, and the use of local assistance including loans to individual households” translated to negotiated ordinances in housing policy in the 1990s with Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, or CABA). The economic downturn of the 1990s and subsequent depression of 1998-2001 exacerbated the housing deficit, increased housing informality, and weakened the country’s previously stable and robust middle class.1
In December 2000, the social movements’ acts of protest, resistance, and advocacy came to fruition in CABA with the passage of Law 341, an unprecedented legal recognition of housing rights. The law facilitated access to capital for collective organizations and associations involving low-income populations for the creation of self-managed and emergency housing and created the Programa de Autogestión de Vivienda (Self-Management Housing Program or PAV) in the Instituto de Vivienda de la Ciudad (City Housing Institute, or IVC; formerly known as Comisión Municipal de la Vivienda), ushering in a new era of social housing programming in CABA.
As of the 2010 Census, Argentina suffers from a housing shortage of 2.5 million homes, including both units that need to be built or renovated for quality.2 Law 341 and PAV demonstrate a potential pathway for the country to improve its housing conditions and close its housing gap.
Implementation and Impact
According to the CABA Ombudsman’s Office, as of 2014, 22 projects have been completed thus far, successfully housing 699 households. Furthermore, an additional 40 projects have been initiated and are expected to house another 793 households.3 The Ombudsman’s Office notes that project initiation and approval more or less came to a full halt in 2008 due to changes in leadership at the IVC as the administration changed, as the administration changed, though multiple initiated projects were completed beginning in 2009.4, 5
The Monteagudo Complejo (Monteagudo Housing Project) highlights how implementation and financing takes place.
Movimiento Territorial de Liberación (Territorial Liberation Movement, or MTL), a piquetero (picketer) group formed by unemployed workers and activists,6 which is also part of CTA, formed the Emetele housing cooperative of formerly homeless families and initiated the Monteagudo Complejo project. Monteagudo represents one of the largest projects funded through PAV and Law 341 to date.7 The housing project is built on 4,000 square meters of land and includes retail units, communal areas, childcare facilities, and a community radio station, in addition to one-, two- and three-bedroom housing units.8 Construction was completed in just under 30 months and reflected resident-led decisions around design and needs. The cooperative’s construction arm built the 326 housing units, but cooperative members who participated in construction were not necessarily recipients of housing units. The cooperative allocated housing units to members who best met criteria including but not limited to political activism, level of need, and ability to pay.9 The project leveraged technical accessory firms to support the cooperative’s legal, social, architectural, and financial decision making and self-management processes. Lastly, the cooperative established a technical training center and formalized itself as a construction company, creating permanent jobs for over 400 previously unemployed cooperative members.10
The housing projects are funded 80-100% by CABA.11 Between 2000 and 2010, PAV budget allocation ranged from 1.8 million pesos in 2002 to 76 million pesos in 2009; however, PAV rarely used its full budget in years with higher allocations. Between 2004 and 2013, PAV budget used ranged from 2% (12.8 million pesos) of total IVC budget used in 2013 to 17% (40 million pesos) of total IVC budget used in 2010.
The Monteagudo project received 16 million pesos (or around $5.3 million USD) for housing construction and associated fees, and additional funding was obtained for communal facilities. Residents of Monteagudo repay the loan at zero interest over 30 years, and then will receive title to the property and tenure on a condominium basis, where each household owns its individual unit.12
Self-management and Governance Structure
Though the law and program encourage and elevate self-managed housing and cooperatives, a self-management or governance structure is not prescribed explicitly in the law. In addition, social movements tend to organize around principles of mutual aid, collective property, and housing as a means to a more equitable democracy, while ad-hoc housing cooperatives that formed specifically to qualify for the program tend to see the cooperative process as a means to housing itself.13 Thus, governance structures may vary depending on the social movement and the housing cooperative itself.
In Monteagudo Complejo, the cooperative chose to self-manage, but did not self-construct or leverage future residents’ sweat equity to build the project. Its associated social movement, MTL, is organized through geographic zones. Within each zone, members participate in commissions ranging from health, housing, youth, education, as well as executive committees, all of which ensure that the social movement operates, organizes, and proceeds smoothly.14
Enabling Legal and Political Framework
Argentina’s 1994 constitutional reform declared Buenos Aires an autonomous city. As an autonomous city, CABA has its own executive, judicial, and legislative branches, thereby allowing CABA to create, pass, and enforce its own laws. CABA passed several key laws related to housing rights, housing policy, and land use in the 2000s, including Law 341, Law 964 (amending Law 341), and Law 1251.
Law 341 establishes the legitimacy of cooperatives as recipients of state funds and state land for housing redevelopment and construction, and self-management as a mode of housing provision.15 Furthermore, Law 341 specifically targets low-income households, which was previously uncommon in the history of housing policy in Argentina more broadly, and opened the opportunity for participatory decision making in the allocation of PAV budget. The law clearly delineates steps that participating entities need to follow in order to qualify for PAV. In addition, it recognizes technical advisory firms as critical parts to self-management, requiring the use of these technical bodies to be eligible for project approval. Law 964 passed in 2002, amending law 341: the amendment both improved problematic parts of the law as well as rescinded some aspects of law 341. While it increases the maximum cap of government funding per household unit from 30,000 to 42,000 pesos, the law generally returns power back to the ICV that had been (briefly) shared with social organizations. For example, social organizations’ capacity to participate in the PAV commission is restricted to strictly observatory roles, whereas before it was left vague. In addition, the amendment reserves ICV’s right to approve technical advisory firms used by housing projects. Other administrative-level directives also re-concentrate power with ICV.16
Law 1251, passed in 2003, establishes a system for rights in cooperatives and attempts to create the CABA land bank, with a special focus on identifying lands suitable for transfer to the IVC for use in housing projects. However, by 2014, such an institution had still not been established in a satisfactory manner. In tandem with the above laws, Law 1251 theoretically makes land in central urban areas even more accessible to cooperatives and self-managed housing projects.17 The CABA Ombudsman’s Office identifies the challenges of establishing the land bank due to high land values and lack of procedures. The lack of a land bank prevents or delays slows the initiation and momentum of a potential housing project.18
Footnotes . World Bank’s Argentina Country Management Unit, “Review of Argentina’s Housing Sector: Options for Affordable Housing Policy (Policy Research Working Paper),” November 2006, 11.
. “Argentina,” Habitat for Humanity, accessed March 29, 2020, https://www.habitat.org/where-we-build/argentina.
. Alejandro Amor, Defensoría del Pueblo de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, “El Programa de Autogestión para la Vivienda” (November 2014), 18.
. Amor, 16.
. Amor, 19.
. Isabella Alcañiz and Melissa Scheier, “New Social Movements with Old Party Politics: The MTL Piqueteros and the Communist Party in Argentina,” Latin American Perspectives 34, no. 2 (2007): 157.
. “Monteagudo Housing Project,” World Habitat Awards, accessed March 23, 2020, https://www.world-habitat.org/world-habitat-awards/winners-and-finalists/monteagudo-housing-project/.
. “Monteagudo Housing Project.”
. Mariano Scheinsohn and Cecilia Cabrera, “Social movements and the Production of Housing in Buenos Aires; When Policies are Effective,” Environment & Urbanization 21, no. 1 (2009): 117-118.
. “Monteagudo Housing Project.”
. Ley 341, La Legislatura de la Autónoma de Buenos Aires (2000).
. “Monteagudo Housing Project.”
. Valeria Procupez and María Carla Rodríguez, “Alternative Models of Housing Development Programs in Buenos Aires, Argentina” (Report for 21st Century Cities Initiative Applied Research Seed Grant Program, Johns Hopkins University, 2019), 6-7.
. Allison Anne Lasser, “Housing Policy and Participation: Law 341 in the City of Buenos Aires, 2000-2007” (master’s thesis, Georgetown University, 2008), 128-129.
. Ley 345.
. María Cecilia Zapata, “El Programa de AutogestIón para la Vivienda: el Ciclo de Vida de una PolítIca Habitacional Habilitante a la Participación Social y del Derecho al Hábitat y a la Cuidad,” Documentos de Jóvenes Investigadores 36 (2013): 47.
. Amor, 22-23.
. Amor, 23.
. World Bank’s Argentina Country Management Unit, “Review of Argentina’s Housing Sector: Options for Affordable Housing Policy (Policy Research Working Paper),” November 2006, 11.