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Buenos Aires Slums are becoming urbanised

In an amazing, transformation the slums of this major Latin American city is that they are being urbanised into suburbs.

The most recent example is the slum on the banks of the Rio del Plata just south of one of the most expensive suburbs in Buenos Aires, Puerto Madero. The area is called Sur Villa Rodrigo Bueno. Here they are moving 600 of the 1,000 families that make up this slum into new apartments and the rest into refurbished homes.

Authorities have already begun the first part of the moving process for the first 600 families.

Between enthusiasm and uncertainty, the neighbours leave behind the precarious dwellings they inhabited for years, some built on stilts, others situated below the water level. Crowded spaces built on top of each other, without ventilation, dirt floors in many cases, and unplastered brick walls. They will leave behind that feeling of damp that stays in the bones that have caused disease, encouraging crime and helplessness.

The new housing complex was built on land located to the right of the main entrance of the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve. For decades, this property was filled with weeds and mountains of rubbish; It also operated a car dump for stolen cars found by the police. This land ended up being the key because it allowed the Housing Institute of Buenos Aires City (IVC) to begin the construction of 46 buildings, distributed over eight blocks.

The constructions have ground floor, plus four floors above, (three more Duplex-type apartments on the top floor). The units have a living room and between one and four bedrooms, with surfaces that vary from 50m2 to 115m2. The cost of construction, according to the IVC Rondo was 800 to 900 US dollars per m2.

Now authorities have begun moving the neighbours who are living in the most vulnerable places in the neighbourhood and those who have been living on the streets that will now be common usage. The “historic quarter”, as the neighbours call it, will continue to exist. It is estimated that there are some 1,000 families: 612 will move to the “New neighbourhood” and the rest will remain in the original villa but they will be renovated.

Anita Colán Chumpitas was one of the first neighbours to move into the new apartments. Anita helps her daughter, who has a small culinary venture. She is 62 years old, born in Lima (Peru), and arrived in Argentina in 2000, with the idea of staying only for a few years but stayed. The grandchildren have now arrived, our children are working, so we are already fully integrated.” she says. In the apartment, she will live with her husband and two unmarried children.

Unlike what happens in other neighbourhoods with new housing, Rodrigo Bueno’s neighbours already know how much they will pay for their departments. In the case of Anita and her family, it will be $9,800 pesos (USD 218) per month with an annual update for inflation.

As reported in the IVC, loans vary greatly according to the income of each family group. By law, the fee cannot exceed 20% of their income, which in most cases are informal ( ie they don’t pay taxes ). Thus, some pay $1,300 pesos and others up to $20,000 pesos. The mortgage loans are for 30 years without a cap on the amount.

In addition, they pay for the Services: “But the issue of tariffs does not concern us so much, because In Peru the services are much more expensive, so we have the culture of taking good care of the resources, “Anita said. Our biggest concern today is our daughter who has just had a baby and is afraid to struggle to keep a job when Anita has to move.

It happens that in the slums many neighbours work and provide services in their own neighbourhoods, from food to shops and blacksmith type shops.

This is why many people resist moving. Lucas Rande is an official of the IVC and assured this newspaper that part of the infrastructure of the neighbourhood has to do with this problem, and that “therefore an area will be built, designed for everything that has to do with gastronomy. In addition, commercial premises were built on the ground floor of the buildings. The idea is that in the future the neighbours who come to visit the waterfront and Puerto Madero go beyond the entrance to the reserve and come to these gastronomic posts to spend money. ”

The buildings are ground floor plus four floors, and all apartments have balconies. That was a requirement of the new owners, in the same way, that we ask that the ‘ Historical District ‘ has in the future the same services as the new apartments. The neighbourhood achievement is that we were able to show the state that we inhabit the neighbourhoods and know the needs that exist, “said Diego Armando González, one of the four delegates in the neighbourhood. “The most visible is the work, but the greatest innovation is that we were able to develop participatory schemes with neighbours and delegates. Public policy is short on representation if it does not include the neighbours, “contributed Juan Maquieyra, president of the IVC.

Buenos Aires Slums

The greatest uncertainty regarding this project also has to do with the economic crisis situation. Families are faced with a very complex panorama: How to deal with the payment of public services and mortgage credit at the same time. From the observatory on the right to the city they are emphasizing this topic: “It is an economic shock for the families, who go from the informality to the formality. Perhaps the value of housing can become the least important, because they access soft loans and in an inflationary context, in a few years they will pay very little. But services and expenses could take a huge percentage of family income, “they explain in that NGO.

In order to reduce this impact, the ombudsman of the town is developing a system that allows to attend this situation, similar to the one that manages AySA, called “Social case”: “The figure is not arbitrary, but it arises from the sworn statements of each family, “explained Federico Berardi, director of the Slums ( Villas ) area at the ombudsman. This highlights a central theme related to the neighbourhood: “we went from eradication to urbanization. Now it remains to solve very basic demands, for example, drinking water in the slum, where the neighbours were provided through a pump, “he added.

Another situation that changes from the move is the organization consortium. From the IVC, they assure that they will train and accompany the neighbours in the next six months. For many, it will be a new learning experience, because they never had to share expenses, solve repairs or keep clean common spaces. Time will tell whether they do it on their own or whether the city should intervene before the buildings end up degraded, like the vast majority of state-built department sets around the world.

However, the signs are positive and as other slums around the major cities in Argentina have become more urbanised it is possible that other Latin American countries will copy the model.

Better housing and education rather than exclusion and denial has been a major step forward in the past three years in Argentina to past policies of weaponizing the poor and less educated to be a political tool for maintaining power by populist governments. We have seen this in extreme examples with Venezuela under the governments of Chavez/Madero and Argentina’s Peronist/Kitcheners rule.

In Argentina, the situation was complex as, over the years of social policies that gave free health care, education along with porous borders and high levels of administrative corruption encouraged the poor from neighbouring countries to pour into Argentina overloading that countries social infrastructure which was once the envy of the region helping create these slums.

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