Alternative Models of Housing Development Programs in Buenos Aires, Argentina
This project is a study of housing policies targeting low-income sectors in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the channels for participation of beneficiaries that have allowed them to become involved in the solution to their housing needs. Specifically, the project involved collaborative research on the impact of an affordable housing program promoted by community organizations and implemented by the city government as one among other instruments aimed at alleviating urban poverty and countering the severe housing deficit in the city. The study involved both longitudinal and comparative perspectives encompassing six different cases of program implementation.
The Self-managed Housing Act (Law 341), negotiated and developed through collective decision-making processes, has made access to the city and urban fabric possible for low-income groups, offering them the challenge of directly managing public financial resources, granted by the local state through soft mortgage loans. The leading role played by the organizations and their members as agents of this urban policy intervention, articulated with interdisciplinary technical assistance and eschewing the generation of financial profit while reducing intermediation costs, resulted in larger housing complexes, which are cheaper, of better quality and more beautiful than the usual social housing produced by public funding for these groups in the last few decades.
These differences were illustrated by the production of housing projects with high quality architectural design, generation of dignified remunerated jobs within self-managed forms of production and building, development of administrative skills and positive effects on other dimensions of everyday life and human experience of the coops members, including proper integration vis-à-vis the neighborhood. The type of urban re-development, re-qualification and mixed income neighborhoods promoted by the Self-managed Housing Act (Law 341) encourage low-income sectors to become part of the population that shares the benefits of urban renewal, in locations where they reside, next to higher income groups.
Underscoring the capacity of this scheme for social change and cultural resignification, several movements intend to maintain the housing complexes under collective ownership and user systems, proposing a conscious, responsible and non-speculative use of these exceptional urban resources, guided by the principle of the social function of property and the recognition of the social character of the production of the city as a common good. Thus – and despite many difficulties, conflicts and a steep learning curve affecting the whole system of actors involved- it can be stated that, due to its various and diverse effects, the implementation of PAV has optimized the efficient deployment of public resources, at the same time encouraging low-income populations to adopt a leading role in crucial individual and collective decision-making processes, with definitive impact on their individual everyday lives, and the present and future of their families.