On behalf of members of the research network for the advancement of New Generation Housing Policies in Consolidated Low-income Settlements in Latin America I am pleased to welcome you to this public website hosted by the University of Texas at Austin. The research network comprises a multi-city comparative research project that was established in late 2006 under the umbrella of The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. It includes leading researchers from the following countries and cities: Argentina (Buenos Aires); Brazil (Recife); Chile (Santiago); Colombia (Bogotá); Guatemala (Guatemala City); Mexico (Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara); Peru (Lima), Uruguay (Montevideo) and the Domincan Republic (Santo Domingo). See below for a brief video overview of the project (in Spanish) that was prepared by Dr Edith Jiménez and her colleagues at the Universidad de Guadalajara in preparation for our Regional Policy Roll out meeting in Guadalajara in November in 2011. Also see each case study city “Urbanization and Housing Trends” for a pdf of the summary poster that was prepared for the same event. Early generations of housing policy include the “social” interest project housing in the 1960s and which morphed into large privately developed (but state supported) housing project estates for working and lower-middle class households in the first decade of the 21st century; a second generation of supportive policies for upgrading and regularization of irregular settlements that came to the fore in the late 1970s and which also continue today in many Latin American cities targeting especially the more recently formed informal settlements. We posit that public policy supports for a new generation” of housing needs are required focusing upon urban revitalization and housing renovations, targeting especially the older irregular settlements that were established thirty years ago or more.

These self-help settlements began as shantytowns in the then suburbs, but with city expansion, they are today located in the inner or intermediate rings of city development and correspond to what, in the USA, have recently begun to be identified as the “innerburbs”. In Latin America (and in other developing area regions) these older self-built low-income suburbs are today relatively consolidated, comprising as they do all services, paved streets and brick-built often two-story dwellings, etc. Part of the problem that these areas now face is that these dwellings were built gradually – as families grew, and as resources allowed. Being self-built and low cost, they relied upon little or no formal building skills, they were rarely conceived according to a complete dwelling plan, and they made no effort to comply with safety norms and codes, etc. That worked fine at the time, but 20-30 years later is has led to severe deterioration of the built environment. Moreover, a substantial proportion of the original owners have died or are now in their 60s and 70s, and are often leaving their lots and homes to children and to other kinsmen and their families but without a transfer of title. And while many of the original owner-settler households do remain in these neighborhoods, these areas are mixed tenure offering an important housing niche for some of the most vulnerable families: female headed households, the elderly, and others who form part of the so-called “new poor” who are increasingly excluded from the urban economy as well as from public and private welfare supports. Despite their apparent full spatial and physical integration, these settlements are invariably in urgent need of attention and policy support for revitalization.

This new generation of housing analysis and policy will build upon the earlier rounds of policy development of the 1980s and 1990s, which continue to focus upon peripheral and newer irregular settlements but has the distinguishing policy focus upon rehabilitation, redesign, and retrofitting self-built housing for contemporary users and stakeholders. The primary anticipated product is to contribute new and sensitive policy recommendations to international housing agencies, national and city governments, as well as a series of collaborative publications that will, we hope stimulate further research and creative thinking about housing rehabilitation and urban sustainability.

This website contains various portals that can be accessed via the top menu bar and through a brief introduction in either Spanish or English the reader will be directed to several discrete sections of LAHN’’s activities: The Network itself and detailed information about the case study cities; the Research Methodology that we have developed and the protocols associated with different stages and strategies of analysis; The Databases that we are creating to that common methodology; and Network Publications as these come on line. Not all materials are presented in both Spanish and English, and materials will be uploaded in the language in which they are received here in Austin. But we will aim to ensure that there is sufficient bilingual material in the portals and sub-folders so as to allow for adequate orientation and access around the website.

In the meantime, please direct any enquiries to the LAHN Project coordinator, Dr. Peter Ward, at the University of Texas at Austin: peter.ward@mail.utexas.edu

Once again, welcome!

Peter M. Ward Ph.D
C.B. Smith Sr. Centennial Chair in US-Mexico Relations
Professor Dept. of Sociology and at the LBJ School of Public Affairs
University of Texas at Austin