Getting a property title changed Bienvenida Carías' life.
When Bienvenida moved to what is now the neighborhood of Flor del Campo, in Tegucigalpa, the only thing there was tall grass—and snakes. There were few neighbors and no electricity, telephone service, storm sewers, or running water.
Almost the only thing Bienvenida and her six daughters did have was a dream—a dream of owning a small piece of land for themselves.
That was over 25 years ago. Today, almost everything has changed. Bienvenida now has over 20,000 neighbors who live in brick or cement houses crammed wall-to-wall, covering the once-empty fields. Most have access to electricity, water, and land-line or cellular phone service.
Until recently, though, one thing hadn't changed: despite having built their community with government permission, Flor residents found it nearly impossible to get valid property titles. Government apathy, a local strongman who (falsely) claimed to own acres of the land Flor was built on, and miles of red tape all stood in the way.
Flor del Campo is still a poor community. Still, improvements in its infrastructure and Bienvenida's home-improvement investments make her property worth far more than it was when she first moved in. But all that wealth was in effect locked up in the ground. Without a title, no bank would give Bienvenida a loan.
Meanwhile, the ancient roof beams of Bienvenida's house were rotting away, but she had no money to replace them.
New Hope for Bienvenida
Thankfully, before Bienvenida's roof could cave in, a new Property Law, advocated for and in large part proposed by the Association for a More Just Society (AJS)'s Honduran partner organization, ASJ, was passed and put into action.
The Property Law established a procedure enabling Bienvenida to receive a reliable, government-issued property title at a cost similar to what it would have been had the government had their act together back when the land was settled.
Having been one of the first people to settle Flor del Campo, Bienvenida now became one of the first people there to receive a valid title from the government. On October 17, 2005, she received the title she had waited 25 years for. Just a few days later, with title in hand, she want to the bank, which was now more than happy to loan her 10,0000 lempiras (US$525) with her home as the guarantee.
Now Bienvenida has a shiny corrugated aluminum roof resting on sturdy steel beams, a nearly paid off loan—and certainty that she'll have something to pass on to her children. "I feel like I finally have something that's really mine," Bienvenida told me. "I've got something to pass on to my daughters; no one can try to kick me off this land anymore."
AJS Helps Thousands Get Titles
Since the Property Law was put into action, some 30,000 families have received titles. These are great victories—but they don't mean the Land Rights Team's work is over.
A number of studies carried out by the Land Rights Project in recent years have revealed dozens of irregularities in the way the government has implemented the Property Law. Many beneficiaries of the law are in the dark regarding the law's details, and the government has done little to educate them. So ASJ has taken the lead in educating scores of community leaders about the basics of the Property Law and pressuring land officials to do their jobs right.
With God's blessing and your continued prayers and support, ASJ will help ensure that thousands more Hondurans receive land titles—and a "new lease on life."