Expulsados de la ciudad : spatial dynamics of neoliberal housing policy in Chile and Brazil
McTarnaghan, Sara Gajer
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Across Latin America there is a housing deficit of 59 million units, meaning roughly one in three people struggle with inadequate shelter (IADB, 2012). This deficit is representative of the ongoing challenge at both local and regional levels to ensure access to housing for an overwhelmingly urban population. Governments have responded to this challenge through many strategies, including the provision and financing of government subsidized social housing to fill the gap in the private housing market. In addition to meeting low-income housing needs, social housing has also gained increasing attention in the region over the past few decades as a means of poverty alleviation more broadly. In several countries, social housing programs follow a demand-based model whereby the government provides subsides to the private sector for the construction of units. The demand-based housing subsidy that was first created in Chile in the late 1970s was recently applied in Brazil under the Minha Casa, Minha Vida program. While these programs are often applauded for their wide coverage, housing millions of people in both countries, concerns have been raised over the quality and location of such units. These critiques are challenging the proclaimed success of such projects as mechanisms for poverty alleviation and community development. This thesis examines the implementation of social housing programs in Santiago, Chile and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, finding not only similar typologies of housing and implementation processes, but also overlapping motivations and challenges. This is quite surprising, since the programs emerged within drastically different political, historical and social contexts which in turn would suggest divergent approaches. While the program emerged in Chile during the military dictatorship, in Brazil the new housing policy grew out of two decades of urban reform and urban legislation based on the right to the city principles. This research shows that the programs in Chile and Brazil are both driven by a neoliberal discourse that crosses national boundaries and encourages the State to delegate planning and implementation of low-income housing to the private sector. In both cases, a highly problematic outcome of such transfers of responsibility from the State to the private sector is the resulting spatial distribution of housing units, which has created a legacy of geographic segregation and decreased social integration. The process of expulsion of low-income families from high value areas of the city into peripheral, isolated zones of homogenous poverty has been a direct result of the housing policy in Santiago since the late 1970s and promises to repeat itself in Rio de Janeiro if additional regulations are not provided by state and municipal authorities. The experiences in Santiago and Rio de Janeiro demonstrate the need for housing interventions based on more thorough and purposeful planning process with the participation of targeted communities coupled with local government oversight.