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Cities Research Seminar Series: Why There? Developers' Rationale for Building Social Housing in the Urban Periphery in Latin America

Nora Libertun de Duren will present on housing issues in Latin America. Inadequate housing has become endemic to Latin American cities for over six decades. All that has changed has been who is going where. In the 1960s, the rural poor who came to the city solved their housing needs by building their own informal settlements on peri-urban lands. Today, the urban poor relocate to peri-urban housing complexes built by the private sector with state subsidies. Why have these new housing units for low-income households been built in peri-urban areas? This talk examines some of the mechanisms behind the location of the urban poor in cities, with a specific focus on the role developers have played in the construction of affordable housing in peri-urban areas of Brazil and, Mexico. Economies of scale – and not land prices – explain developers' preference for building in peripheral areas. Initial savings that accrue to developers due to lower land prices in the periphery are offset by the cost of having to build basic onsite infrastructure. Plus, large lots – which are available almost exclusively in urban peripheries – enable developers to achieve significant cost savings because these large lots make it possible for developers to build more than 500 units. In addition, weaker municipal regulations and fewer bidders, both of which are typical for projects in difficult-to-access peripheral locations, make for a shorter and easier approval process for these large housing projects.

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Speaker: Nora Libertun de Duren

Nora Libertun de Duren is an urban development and housing expert at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), where she leads research activities in urban issues. Nora has comprehensive research and operational experience in the topics of housing, urban public space, urban growth and sustainable development.

She has lectured about these topics in many universities, and will be teaching at Harvard University next fall. Prior to joining the IADB, she was the Director of Planning at New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, where she led a citywide strategy for creating sustainable and accessible public spaces. She has authored papers published in peer reviewed journals, including Housing Policy Debates, Planning Journal of Education and Research, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, City and Community, Urban Studies, Cities and International Journal of Housing Policy. She has been the MIT Journal of Planning editor, and the co-editor of Cities and Sovereignty: Identity Politics in Urban Spaces (Indiana University Press, 2011). Nora has been recipient of various awards, including a Fulbright Fellowship, a Harvard Fellowship, an MIT Presidential Scholarship, an MIT prize for outstanding PhD Dissertation in Planning, and the University of Buenos Aires Highest Achievement medal. Nora holds a PhD in Urban Planning from the MIT; a Master in urban design from Harvard University, and in Architecture from the University of Buenos Aires.

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