The current Rental Law (27,551), sanctioned in June 2020, is at the center of the debate as a tool for housing policy and access to housing.
The norm in force generated various controversies and positions about its impact on society. The main points of discussion are framed in the minimum term of the lease, which is 3 years; the annual update through an index made up in equal parts of the Consumer Price Index (IPC) and the Average Taxable Remuneration of Stable Workers (RIPTE), prepared and published monthly by the Central Bank (BCRA).
Now, beyond the positions regarding this law, which, like all laws, needs information and time to be evaluated as a public policy, the truth is that its debate, as one of the constitutive areas of the search for effective tools to guarantee access to housing, had a marked absence: the reality of the people who rent in the villas and settlements that are stripped of regulation and guarantees was not and is not present at the debate.
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There are more and more people who, due to economic barriers and requirements of the formal housing market (submit property guarantees, proof of formal income, expensive surety insurance, deposit payments, among others) are unable to access a home in formal conditions. Many of them end up increasing the number of inhabitants of popular neighborhoods that suffer from housing deficits.
According to data from the National Registry of Popular Neighborhoods (RENABAP, 2018) in our country there are 4,416 popular neighborhoods, accounting for 511,775 homes, of which 3% are rented. However, at the local level, the percentage of rented homes in villas and settlements is six times higher (18%). These data show that Informal rental in popular neighborhoods is a social phenomenon concentrated in the City of Buenos Aires that requires attention.
According to a report by the Ombudsman of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (2018) that analyzes the living conditions of tenants in the villas, the population that resides in them is around 300,000 people. The work reveals that among those who rent in popular neighborhoods, 33.7% live in overcrowded conditions; within that percentage, 25.2% do so in conditions of non-critical overcrowding and 8.5% of critical overcrowding. Regarding access to different public services, 18.2% of the people surveyed still do not have a sewer and 8.9% do not have access to running water. In addition, 70.7% of cases access electricity informally.
On the other hand, regarding the concerns of the tenants of the villas, the study showed that the issue of housing is one of the main ones. In this sense, 33.5% favored one of the variables related to housing as the first reason for concern: public services in the neighborhood 7.3%; difficulties to rent 6.8%; access to own housing 4.6%; floods due to rains 3.3%, among others.
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The data reflects the conditions of vulnerability in which the tenants live in the villas that see their right to decent housing and adequate habitat affected.
In these neighbourhoods, the problems are not only reduced to precarious building conditions, insecurity or lack of access to public services, but rather the absence of law enforcement and effective enforcement mechanisms, places its inhabitants in a permanent situation of uncertainty and lack of protection against evictions, threats and harassment. In addition to suffering different types of discrimination when renting, there is a marked problem that results in the violation of the rights of children and adolescents since the owners prefer to rent to people or family groups of legal age.
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Likewise, it happens that as a result of legal insecurity, rent amounts increase discretionally at any time of the year or month (7% of tenants stated that monthly increases are made) and it also happens that without prior notice those who hold the quality of holders evict tenant families because they want to make use of the space for a family member, someone who pays more money or simply for another use.
All this shows that the reality of the tenant population that lives in an informal framework, despite being a problem that is little or not visible at all, demands the development of concrete, sustained and efficient public policies that attend to the particularity and special vulnerability of those who rent under almost zero conditions of predictability. Otherwise, one of the most vulnerable universes, which corresponds to the families that rent in villas and settlements, continues to be left unprotected.
* Barbara Bonelli. Deputy Ombudsman of CABA.
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