Who’s afraid of the Buenos Aires’ new popular habitat act?
The answer: everyone. The recently enacted law of the Buenos Aires province proposes a compact, dense, diverse, and accessible city, aiming to reorient the urban land market. This law is shaking the fundamentals of planning in a metropolitan area that to a great extent still follows the dogmas of urbanism during the twentieth century.
Greater Buenos Aires’ growth produced in the last two decades an uneven and fragmented archipelago of gated neighborhoods, settlements, villas miseria and residential complexes. The expansion of highways and other infrastructure networks facilitated the sprawl. The availability of large tracts of land accessible within minutes of the city led to the emergence of large and closed residential enclaves, offices, hotels and health centers. Interspersed among the new projects are many older neighborhoods that share space with informal settlements and social housing projects, which are always insufficient to alleviate the needs of a population growing by tens of thousands each year.
The new law garners the attention of all sectors involved in the production of housing and offers a variety of training and funding. This enables each one of them: cooperatives, civil associations, non-governmental organizations, and the general population, among others, to add their projects in a participatory and democratic fashion.
Municipalities are responsible for identifying and taking care of urban housing deficit. They are also responsible for creating structural planning and conditions for new developments that can help end the informal land settlement increase.
However, creating new institutions and frameworks for urban development and housing that overlap or add to existing ones does not help solve the problems in the social field that developers have today. These problems include such things as housing deficit, poverty and insecurity. The act utilizes advice and training from the Provincial Housing Institute, but this may not be enough.
The critical problem is land use because this is precisely what is lacking: land well located and served. This law will compel municipalities to revitalize degraded areas, create special areas and set aside reserves. The aim is to recover a plethora of disused land that is well located.
For the good of the inhabitants of Buenos Aires, it is expected that this law will help make this fragmented archipelago a territory more organized and balanced. But do you think legislation is enough to solve a problem that is so long-held and that no one has yet been able to solve?
I then reformulate my question: who should be afraid of the new popular habitat act?
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