Seeking solutions in highly urbanized Latin America.
By Thomas E. Bassett. Senior program associate at the American Planning Association.
Three ongoing initiatives in Latin American nations are benefiting from the efforts of planners. Each has its own specific program, and offers solutions to the challenges many in their countries face. All of them provide opportunities for leaders and innovators to collaborate, compare, and contrast their ideas — and work to improve the lives of residents. And so far, they are showing promise by working from the bottom up.
APA is working with these three projects under the U.S. State Department's Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas. With a two-year grant of $62,500 for each project, the APA team is curating a suite of technical assistance visits, where experts work with each local NGO to tackle challenges faced by these organizations.
In Peru, about 1.5 million families (among a population of over 30 million) live in slums, including older neighborhoods with great historic value. Revitalizing these neighborhoods could create economic growth for the city and improve social inclusion.
The Rímac Reborn Project of Eficiencia Legal para la Inclusión Social (Legal Efficiency for Social Inclusion — ELIS) has been working in the district of Rímac in Lima to promote new housing but without displacement. Within this UNESCO World Heritage site, thousands of squatters occupy forgotten mansions. ELIS, which is a Peruvian NGO, has been able to organize the residents into associations while at the same time communicating with the property owners to propose redevelopment.
Because Peru lacks sufficient public housing programs, ELIS has been creatively working to upgrade the housing with no public subsidy. The organization lobbied for passage of a 2009 law stipulating that all new development in historic districts must have a social component. Now private developers will bid to redevelop six pilot sites by purchasing the land from the property owners, providing subsidized units in new buildings for the current residents, and offering market-rate units to cover costs and generate a profit.
This model differs radically from social housing in Peru to date. Instead of building new units on the outskirts of the city, the ELIS developments will offer residents housing close to employment, which will cut down on transportation costs, both financial and environmental. The Rímac Reborn project is also the first mixed income project in the country, and will not only provide subsidized units for the current residents, but will also offer middle-income market-rate units in a city lacking this strata of housing.
The Rímac Reborn Project will assist with the revitalization of Rímac, one of Lima's downtown historic districts, by establishing a mechanism to transfer property rights and attract private sector investment. The project has potential to be replicated elsewhere in Lima, Peru, and the rest of Latin America.