Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Developing a “New Urban Agenda” in Paraguay

by David Luberoff
Senior Associate Director
Since urban growth has come relatively late to Paraguay, the South American country has had the opportunity learn from the successes and failures of others, noted Maria Soledad Núñez, Paraguay’s Minister of Housing and Habitat in a Brown Bag talk hosted by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design on September 12.

The youngest person ever appointed a Cabinet-level minister in Paraguay, Núñez, who was appointed in 2014, when she was 31 years old, recalled that accepting the post represented a major change for her, as she had spent almost a decade working at NGOs that advocated on behalf of those living in slums in her country and other parts of Latin America. Although she worried about whether she would be given the authority to move forward with the ambitious policies she had been advocating, she ultimately decided that the opportunity was too promising to pass up.  

At her talk, which was co-sponsored by the Harvard Urban Planning Organization, Núñez recalled how, when she became minister, she pressed for a dramatic increase in the production of social housing for low-income families. At the time, the Ministry had been building less than 2,000 units a year and most observers didn’t think it had the capacity to even double that amount. Now, however, the Ministry is building more than 10,000 housing units a year. Núñez is also trying to build on that success by focusing not only on building new housing but also ensuring that the new units are part of larger plans to implement the country’s New Urban Agenda, which seeks to create viable and vibrant communities.

As part of those efforts, Núñez added, the Ministry is working with the local government of Asuncion, the capital and Paraguay’s largest city, to relocate low-income residents living in areas regularly subject to flooding from the Rio Paraguay to better housing and to transform some of those areas into badly needed open space for the city’s residents. She also is leading the country’s National Committee of Habitat, which comprises more than 50 public and private institutions that are working together to carry out the country’s urban plans.

Download Minister Núñez’s presentation
(Source: SENAVITAT, National Secretariat of Housing and Habitat of Paraguay)

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