Proposals to address the proliferation of subdivisions on properties in southern Chile

In recent years there has been an increase in plots for housing or pleasure, especially in the southern part of the country, which by law can only be used for agricultural, livestock or forestry purposes.

To address this situation, the government is working flat out on a bill and experts and those affected propose their formulas that range from changes in the current regulation to increasing oversight.

The Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG) indicates that in 2021 they received 19,541 requests for certification of rural property subdivision projects, 177% more than in 2020, in the regions of La Araucanía, Los Ríos, Los Lagos, Aysén and Magallanes and the Chilean Antarctic. An increase that experts explain by the interpretation of the regulations that regulate them.

Among them, decree 3,516 of 1980, which allows the subdivision of rural properties in a minimum of 5,000 m2, and article 55 of the General Law of Urban Planning and Construction, which authorizes the installation of a house on agricultural land. In addition, only those projects that exceed 80 lots must submit to the Environmental Impact Assessment System (SEIA), which in practice has determined that the properties are subdivided into 79 parcels.

decree suspension

The Ministry of Housing and Urbanism is evaluating a series of measures to address the problem. “In the first place, the application of decree 3,516 will be suspended for a period of two to three years. During this time, different alternatives for the subdivision of rural land will be discussed, protecting the future of agricultural land and of the city”, affirms the Minister of Housing, Carlos Montes, without specifying the date of the announcement.

The ministry will also present a bill on the subdivision of rural areas, which will consider the preparation of a registry of the plots of interest in each commune, where “all the organizations that handle information on this subject, such as the SAG and the Service of Internal Taxes (SII), they will deliver it to a ministry, National Assets or another, and to the respective commune”, says the head of Housing.

The project also considers carrying out a diagnosis of the land situation. “It is necessary to know what state they are in, which ones comply with the law and which ones do not. It would not be specifically a census, but it would be a tour to control, ”he says.

Montes anticipates that the bill is ready to be put up for pre-legislative discussion with deputies and senators.

In relation to all rural subdivisions being submitted to the SEIA, the minister indicates that “the new model will require an environmental impact study before authorizing anyone to divide an estate as they wish, and we are currently studying the different alternatives for subdivision of country property”.

Marcelo Santana, mayor of the Río Ibáñez commune in the Aysén region, argues that one way to solve the problem is to guarantee compliance with the current law rather than new legislation.

“The lots that are presumed real estate, both the Real Estate Conservator, the SII and the SAG, if they use the 3,516, must stop it today so that it does not continue. If a real estate company wants to go ahead, let them do it through the Housing Seremi with article 55. And, if they are very large projects, they must be submitted to the SEIA”, explains the mayor.

Greater control

Juan Francisco Sánchez, a lawyer at the Correa Squella law firm and a specialist in Public Law, says that “Decree 3,516 is clear in prohibiting rural land from being used for purposes other than agriculture, livestock, and forestry. But, it has a serious oversight problem.”

According to Sánchez, the existence of micro and macro subdivisions should be allowed with the flexibility of article 55, “so that the real estate developer can do his business, but subject to the burden of urbanization.”

“These subdivisions must be conceived with housing surfaces of a small size and that are concentrated as a condominium. And combine that with macro conservation lots, so that the intervention in rural land is as little as possible”, adds Sánchez.

Faced with the possibility that the decree be suspended -as Minister Montes put it-, the lawyer says that this would imply “that no one will be able to subdivide their rural properties, not even those who have legitimate agricultural, livestock or forestry purposes”, for which the subdivision of land would be frozen.

Lawyer Natalia Alfieri, an expert in Regulatory and Environmental Law, affirms that the “regulation does not authorize uncontrolled subdivision or urban centers outside territorial planning in rural sectors. The democratization of the territory cannot be done at the cost of affecting the soil, the natural resources, the human environment”, she affirms.

For Alfieri, there is a lack of “a clear will to duly apply the current regulation”. This is exemplified by the Chaguay project in the Lo Barnechea commune, where after complaints from the municipality and the stoppage of works, it was declared that the initiative was incompatible with the use of land in the sector and it was asked to enter the SEIA.

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