City Forum | Self-Help Housing and Informal Settlements in Latin America | Hugo Rincón and Fernando Lara

Friday April 9, 2010 , noon to 1:30 p.m.

Latin American cities have long faced a lack of adequate housing for low-income residents. From an emphasis on top-down state interventions and the development of large housing complexes, planners and policy-makers are now experimenting with various forms of participatory approaches and public-private partnerships to address the need for low-income housing. At the same time, low-income residents in informal settlements must continue to rely on self-help strategies to construct their homes. This City Forum will explore policy strategies to low-income housing in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Dr. Hugo Rincón

Facultad de Arquitectura, Universidad de Zulia, Maracaibo, Venezuela

Hugo’s research and teaching focuses on participatory approaches to local development, especially in the Maracaibo region. He is particularly concerned with innovative approaches to low-income housing and participatory approaches to community development in marginalized neighborhoods. He has also been engaged with assessment of urban sprawl in the city of Maracaibo and its consequences for the urban protection zone (“greenbelt”), participated in the development of a comprehensive plan for El Danto in the industrial city of Ciudad Ojeda, consulted on tourism planning in the small towns of Santa Maria, San Antonio and San José, and worked on affordable housing and community development in the fishing village of Barranquitas. Hugo received his Master’s of Community Planning from the University of Cincinnati and his PhD in Community and Regional Planning from UT-Austin.

In his presentation, Hugo will focus on the great need for low-income housing in Venezuela. He will explore the causes of the low-income housing deficit and the political and economic obstacles that have prevented adequate development of housing units for the urban poor. Self-help housing now accounts for 50% of new low-income housing, but such initiatives are poorly supported by state and municipal agencies. Hugo will illustrate his presentation with examples from Maracaibo, the second largest city in Venezuela which faces a host of challenges stemming from rapid growth.

Dr. Fernando Lara

School of Architecture, University of Texas

Fernando’s interests revolve around Latin American 20th century built environment with emphasis on the dissemination of its values beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries. His latest publications examine the modernist vocabulary and spatiality being appropriated by the humblest favela dwellers. Drawing on his research in favelas, Fernando also engages with public policy at the municipal level and collaborates with local firms designing public spaces in informal settlements. In 2005 he founded Studio Toró, a non-profit devoted to the challenges of water conservation and urban flooding in Latin America. His book, The Rise of Popular Modernist Architecture in Brazil, was recently published by University of Florida Press. Fernando earned his BArch and MSc from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais and his PhD from the University of Michigan.

In his presentation, Fernando will discuss a new model for intervention in low-income communities in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte. While a centralized planning model dominated in the 1970s, new approaches to urban development are based on participatory budgeting processes and are focused on the most vulnerable portion of the Brazilian urban population: the favela dwellers. Fernando will explore the potentials and challenges of participatory budgeting for addressing the need for low-income housing in Belo Horizonte and other metropolitan areas in Brazil.