The Political Economy of Land Use Governance in Santiago, Chile and Its Implications for Class-Based Segregation
The Urban Lawyer, Vol. 47, No. 1, Winter 2015
46 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2012 Last revised: 4 Sep 2015
Date Written: April 18, 2013
Despite decades of economic development and the general improvement in the quality of life of its people, Santiago, the capital of Chile, presents high levels of residential segregation along socioeconomic lines. A debate about legal reforms to address this phenomenon is currently occurring.
Chile has an expansive regime of housing assistance programs based on demand-side individual subsidies especially targeted to low-income families. These programs have provided massive access to formal housing, but have routinely failed in addressing the problem of class-based segregation. These subsidies operate in a highly regulated market, where many interrelated institutions exercise urban policy powers. The objective of this paper is to analyze whether and how the land use governance regime that governs Santiago’s urban development has an impact in the pattern of social segregation.
The paper finds that Santiago’s metropolitan area presents a complex regulatory scenario in the realm of land use, mainly involving the Ministry of Housing and Urbanism (MHU) and its fifty-two municipalities. The research also finds that through the exercise of multiple ad- ministrative and regulatory mechanisms, municipalities are increas- ingly using their power to guide the urban development in their corresponding districts. However, this is largely contingent on the bu- reaucratic and financial situation of the local government, its social needs, and the political pressure it faces. Some municipalities are subject to intense lobbying from real estate developers, landowners, and residents’ organizations. Therefore, the regulatory possibilities among Santiago’s local governments vary dramatically.
This fragmented scenario impacts the way public officials perceive the relationship between land use governance and segregation. Some observe that the law establishes strong obstacles to residential integration. Others emphasize the lack of incentives to produce inclusion- ary housing projects. Finally, a third group considers that segregation is beyond the scope of their concern. This is especially observed in high-income districts.
The findings of this paper support the idea that social housing policies based on subsidies cannot be the only remedy for socioeconomic residential segregation. Without addressing the institutional choices and incentives created by Chilean land use regulatory framework and how this institutional structure operates in practice, social integration within Santiago’s metropolitan area will remain an unattainable ideal.
Keywords: Land Use Law, Housing Policy, Residential Segregation, Latin America, Santiago, Chile
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