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Urban solutions in Buenos Aires

December 17, 2008

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ARGENTINA— Home to 12 million people, the Buenos Aires metropolitan area houses a polarized society. Following the economic crisis of 2001, entire slums appeared within months. Abandoned factories in neglected areas were inhabited by hundreds of families. Unused lands along the unhealthy banks of the Riachuelo now house “villas,” and overpopulated transitory hotels have increased in demand and thus inflated prices.

Within the city limits of Buenos Aires, the current housing market has created a situation in which 87,000 homeless families live on the streets, while 100,000 properties remain uninhabited. In addition to the effects of the economic crisis, the urbanization of Argentina has shaped its housing deficit. Today, 90 percent of the Argentine population resides in cities.

The Urban habitat solutions for Buenos Aires project, launched by Habitat for Humanity Argentina in December of 2007, is designed to address these issues. Through partnership, sustainable community development, and alternative housing solutions, the program aims to improve the housing conditions of 774 families in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area within the next four years.

Homeless families living in transitory hotels and informal settlements are the project’s primary focus. Through an assisted rental program, for example, Habitat Argentina will help 194 families to enter, navigate and sustain themselves within the legal rental system. A “More than Rentals” program will provide these families with the social, financial, and legal counseling that they need to ensure that they become dependable renters.

Other program initiatives include: urban recuperation, home improvements and repairs, training, community development, public awareness campaigns, and “joint effort” partnerships which allow families suffering from extreme levels of poverty to attain improvements through government housing subsidies.

Partners play a vital role in this project. In addition to Habitat Argentina, collaborative fuel is supplied by a total of two NGOs, four government agencies, one private company, two employment unions, four universities and two professional associations. Each actor plays a distinct role, such as channeling government subsidies, training families, or providing resources like funding, permits, construction contracts, volunteer assistance and political will.

In 2004, Habitat for Humanity International signed a formal agreement with the United Nations Human Settlements Program to address urban poverty. The Urban Habitat Solutions project is an opportunity to work towards these objectives within Buenos Aires by making poverty a matter of conscience and action through visibility and proximity. While urban poverty may be an overwhelming issue, its solutions can begin at the local level with the recuperation of under-utilized buildings, the creation of housing opportunities, and the empowerment of communities.

Read more about Habitat Argentina