Renca’s regeneration: invigorating urban spaces to solve the housing crisis

About the Affordable Cities blog series and #BetterUrbanHousing
People living in cities across the world are facing the effects of the housing affordability and cost-of-living crisis. OECD Champion Mayors recently endorsed the new “OECD Brussels Blueprint for Affordable cities and Housing for All” at the Brussels Urban Summit where they shared innovative solutions to tackle these challenges and drive more inclusive economic growth. They continue to drive efforts that shape a more affordable, equitable and resilient urban future.

Chile faces an acute housing crisis that is exacerbating urban inequalities and pricing low- and middle-income households out of the country’s most popular cities and neighbourhoods.

According to one study, Chile has a housing shortage of more than 600,000 homes. This housing emergency has resulted in the expansion of informal settlements, homelessness and overcrowding. Many thousands of people cannot afford an adequate place to live.

Renca revisits its plan

The housing crisis is national, but its effects are sharpest locally – in cities like Renca. With a population of more than 160,000, Renca has a housing deficit of 5,000 homes. This has resulted in many resorting to shared residences or living in camps or on the street.

Time for action

In 2022, Renca revised its Urban Masterplan to tackle the crisis through urban regeneration projects that would expand housing supply while providing the right incentives to create mixed, sustainable communities with improved access to goods and services. With these incentives, the plans aims to strike a delicate balance between maintaining the valued characteristics of older neighbourhoods while allowing balanced densification.

Bringing Renca together

Renca’s regeneration would need to be a shared enterprise. In 2019, it convened the leaders of all the grassroots organisations (“housing committees”). In this new forum, they discussed the approach, defused tensions and maintained an open channel of communication with the Municipality.

This approach helped prioritise the sequencing of new developments and create a transparent process in which the different committees know when it’s their turn to access new housing. It also laid the foundation for an Agreement between the Municipality and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to implement the bold new approach.

Different solutions to the same problem

The result is an approach that seeks to make new developments work for both new and old residents alike and prevent the displacement and gentrification that is too often the result of urban regeneration. Two innovative projects stand out in this context:

  1. Regeneration of neighbourhoods 9×18

The commune has 6,000 plots of land that were built in the 1960s, under the “Operaciones Sitio” (Site and Services) programme. This project granted land, property rights and provided access to the water and waste network to thousands of families from precarious or informal settlements, consolidating self-built neighbourhoods that in Chile are known as “barrios 9×18”.

In these neighbourhoods, we are implementing a micro-settlement programme that allows extended households – which currently have high levels of overcrowding – to build small housing condominiums, recycling urban land. These neighbourhoods cover close to 100 hectares of urban areas with the potential to be regenerated, replacing informal buildings with new housing of high housing standards, and keeping the families who currently live there in the same place.

  1. Rental housing at a fair price

Another example is the construction – on municipal land – of a set of 130 rental housing units through a public-private partnership. The project combines housing for different social groups, municipal facilities, and shops, generating a new district close to planned metro stations. It seeks to provide social assistance alongside new housing, and to move away from a model based on housing subsidies that encourages dependence and fuels further house price inflation. It is a scalable, replicable, and autonomous model that allows the municipality to generate public housing stock and capture land value gains.

These are just two of the ways in which Renca is driving a new form of citizen-centred development that works with the culture and character of existing neighbourhoods. It is our ambition to deliver new housing, but in the right way –  both for our people and with our people.

About the OECD Champion Mayors Initiative
Created in 2016, the OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative is a global coalition of mayors who meet on a regular basis to share their experience in the pursuit of inclusive growth in cities. Since its inception, over 100 different mayors from around the world have joined the Initiative, contributing their voice to the global debate, and making major strides in their cities toward youth empowerment, sustainable climate policy and support for SMEs. The Champion Mayors will meet at the Brussels Urban Summit on 13 June to drive change on improving housing affordability and cost of living for residents in their cities.

This blog is also available in spanish.

Mayor of Renca | + posts

Claudio Castro was first elected as Mayor of Renca in December 2016, and was re-elected in 2021, winning 92.8% of the popular vote and earning the first national majority. He was part of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) from 2011 to 2019, and is now an independent politician. Prior to becoming the Mayor of Renca, Castro served as Social Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the NGO Techo and worked in the Ministry of Education of Chile, and founded the Office for Equity and Inclusion at the University of Chile. Claudio Castro is a civil engineer; he graduated from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile where he chaired the Student Federation (FEUC) in 2006. He also has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the London School of Economics.