Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto recently presented his plans for National Housing Policy, all of which are directed at curbing the sprawl that has plagued Mexican cities, causing many social problems. The president´s plans are built around four main points that are meant to promote a new paradigm of urban development. These points are as follows:
1. Achieve coordination among all agencies and stakeholders
2. Promote sustainable development
3. Make it easier to acquire housing
4. To provide high quality housing for all
In order to move these changes forward, the president has promised to reorient all loans and grants from the government to support well planned and orderly urban growth, as well as high density vertical development within urban areas. The main reasons for this are to control the urban sprawl that has consumed an exorbitant amount of land around the major cities as well as lessen the high social cost and economic burdens that come with the commuting from homes so far out from the urban centers and job sources.
One of the strongest needs in Mexican development is point number one. There is a lack of continuity between regulations and communication on the local, state and national levels. This must be completed before any of the latter steps can be implemented correctly. The second point is to promote sustainable and orderly development. As touched upon before, the government plans to do this through financial means, only making loans and grants to projects that can prove they are supporting the government´s goals of intelligent and orderly urban growth. The third point will be done in conjunction with banks, streamlining processes as well as allowing more flexibility for the rehabilitation of existing properties rather than encouraging new construction and sprawl. Finally the last point is to promote higher quality construction in order to provide more dignified living conditions, particularly in the rural areas where the quality of housing is lowest. The government is giving construction companies a grace period of 24 months or 2 years in order to comply with the changes.
Mexican cities have been growing rapidly in the last few years but the quality of development has varied. There have been many problems with the construction of new housing including poorly planned neighborhoods, low quality construction and a lack of oversight by local governments to ensure that the homes are being built to code. Taking steps to change the way development takes place in Mexico is a positive first step even though we have a long way to go in order to raise the quality of living to that of many other developed countries. No place is this more true than in the rural areas, where quality development according to international standards is more than lacking. I am optimistic however.
Responsible development and sustainability is rising into the social consciousness of everyone here in Mexico, especially young people who are looking to make a difference. More and more people are concerned with the environment and raising the standard of living for everyone. Not to mention the level of concern regarding the sustainable capitalization of the natural resources that we already have, particularly in the areas of ecotourism and preservation.
In urban and environmental planning circles more and more people are getting on board with the idea of raising the quality of life and doing things the right way with an eye on the latest trends, practices and technologies. Universities are also beginning to focus on programs that promote good urbanism and environmental sustainability. For this, there is no shortage of students. The passion is here and the government is taking notice.
I hope the government succeeds in implementing true structural changes that result in better planned cities with more attractive and livable spaces. It will also take the efforts from all of us to work towards the common goal of a more equitable, prosperous and developed society…..without losing the unique character that makes Mexico so special. I for one am excited to see what the future holds!