Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina was part of a consortium of civil organizations promoting a change in rental law, impacting 1 million people living in Buenos Aires. In the capital city, low-income renters faced significant cost barriers to accessing formal rental housing due to high entrance costs related to deposits, agency fees and rental payments due in advance. In almost all cases, owners also ask tenants to put up collateral through property owned by an immediate family member in order for the rental contract to be accepted. With support from Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina’s advocacy efforts, the city government significantly reduced these fees and barriers.
Prior to Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina’s advocacy and awareness building, the issue of renting was not addressed by the government and there were no successful city-wide rental policies. Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina is the only housing organization that advocates for housing access through fair rentals in the city of Buenos Aires. The majority of low-income families in Buenos Aires are renters, and many of them currently live in informal rental agreements. Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina’s advocacy approach is rooted in first-hand knowledge from their 2009 pilot project in Buenos Aires’ La Boca neighborhood, in which they worked with families transitioning from informal rental housing contexts to formal rental agreements. When meeting with national and city policymakers, Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina shared the stories of these families living in inadequate and unregulated rental units, and argued that if steep, up-front payment demands were reduced, more people could access adequate rental housing.
During the past 12 months Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina, through the Solid Ground campaign, participated in several roundtables and debates, as well as organized events to articulate between sectors and find new solutions for those excluded from the formal rental market. As a result, the City Government of Buenos Aires approved a new housing law which greatly improves the renting process for tenants. Now, the owner instead of the tenants will pay real estate agency fees. Certificate and stamp fees will be not be charged to tenants in the process of negotiating a new rental contract as well. The effect of this change is substantial, as it is estimated that 35% of inhabitants in Buenos Aires live in rental properties or around 1 million people who have the potential to be impacted by this regulation change.
Previously a family moving into a new apartment would be required to pay about 4 months of rent in advance with the combined costs of the deposit, agency fees, first month’s rent, and stamps and paperwork. Today, this same family would pay half as much, making apartment rentals more attainable for every family.
Furthermore, Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina is part of a group of civil organizations that are proposing law amendments in order to make rentals even more accessible. The coalition presented several proposals for amendments, which would lead to further positive changes for rental accessibility. In addition, although the law is specific to certain conditions of renting, the debate has shown that there is a need to increase the supply of affordable, adequate rental property, leading the city and national government to start addressing this issue.
By becoming a major voice in Argentina’s housing conversation, Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina will continue to push their advocacy efforts into a concrete policy shift within Buenos Aires.