Cover Image
close this bookThe Mega-city in Latin America (UNU, 1996, 282 pages)
close this folder4. Land, housing, and infrastructure in Latin America's major cities
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentHousing conditions
View the documentThe price of land
View the documentResidential segregation
View the documentPopulation density
View the documentThe changing shape of the city
View the documentConclusion
View the documentNotes
View the documentReferences


Latin America's major cities survived remarkably well given the pace of population growth between 1950 and 1980. There was little sign of deterioration in housing conditions and even a general improvement in servicing conditions. Of course, huge problems remained and were accentuated by the economic recession of the 1980s. Today, far too many people are living in poor-quality shelter and far too many peripheral settlements lack adequate infrastructure and services.

Better-quality administration and planning is needed to confront many of these issues and it is time that many local government agencies improved the level of their performance (Bolaffi, 1992). More investment is needed to maintain improvements in service levels. More sensible transport policies are required if the private car is not to suffocate the metropolitan area. More sensible land policies are also needed, policies that will both discourage the excessive holding of building land and reduce tendencies towards urban sprawl.

I do not intend to elaborate on these policies because most are addressed in other chapters of this book. I am also reluctant to produce a long list of recommendations that may never be acted upon. For, despite their manifest ability to cope, few Latin American cities can be said to be well-planned. Indeed, as Violich and Daughters (1987: 378) put it: "in the unregulated form that it has taken, urbanization has become a major new source of national consternation." I am not sure that the quality of planning will improve in the future; indeed, good planning may be impossible given the unequal social and economic structures of Latin America. Perhaps the current belief in the effectiveness of market forces will prove correct and we can all celebrate the demise of incompetent government bureaucracies. Somehow, alas, I doubt it.