CONAVI is in charge of the implementation of the National Housing Law and coordinates financing programs for housing subsidies. It aims to boost the development of sustainable social housing in Mexico and provide incentives for developers. Mexico Infrastructure & Sustainability Review interviewed Director General Jorge Wolpert to ask him about the main trends in social housing and how this will be impacted by the entrance of the new administration.
Q: What is the urban agenda for Mexican cities that CONAVI is pushing?
A: We want to promote better and more compact cities though housing solutions, giving the lower income families the possibility to live near social infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, parks and also to their jobs. We are working with several local governments to better integrate mobility solutions into a territorial view of the social housing. So far, we are working with the governments of the metropolitan areas of Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana and with some municipalities of the Valley of Mexico. Sadly, we have not worked Mexico City since there is no social housing there. The extension of line 3 of the Guadalajara train system incorporated many new social housing developments near its route. Also, Pachuca’s Metrobus was extended to the southeast of the city, where many social housing developments are built.
CONAVI is also striving to promote social housing verticalization though subsidies for over 8,000 families that will buy apartments in the city centers. I believe that we need to incentivize verticality as it implies an optimized use of urban land. Without any doubt, we need to create better and more inclusive cities. The banking system needs to contribute to providing more access to credit and promote the principle of inclusiveness. I think that mid-size cities, such as Merida, Cancun, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes are doing well in terms of social housing production. Regarding our megalopolis, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Tijuana are doing well. In the case of the biggest urban areas, such as Mexico City, land prices are simply too high, and there is a lot to be done to overcome this.
Q: What is your assessment of the impact that the new administration will have on the infrastructure sector and what would you prioritize regarding social housing?
A: The new administration has a big opportunity to consolidate what has been working and to correct what has not. I perceive the goodwill to achieve a positive collaboration between the private and the public sector as dialog has been open. When speaking about housing and development, it is key to have infrastructure that goes hand-in-hand with real estate projects. For example, verticalization requires sustainable water and waste management systems. I believe that the government must seek consensus between developers and technology providers. A proper investment in technology and infrastructure is vital to address cities’ budget deficits. Investment in infrastructure is lagging, which means cities are growing with little densification and poor planning. So, opening up the conversation is key to ensuring that we continue to develop policies that target the poorer and lowest-income families, both in the formal and informal sector.
Another aspect I think is key to keep advancing is the territorial view of development. Nowadays cities use urban contention perimeters, designed to ensure that social housing is well located. But this model must be constantly enhanced with INEGI to make sure that incentives are only applicable to the best-located houses. Perimeters must also serve to guarantee that INFONAVIT and FOVISSSTE give better-targeted credits, only issuing mortgages if housing is within the delimited areas. This will help us avoid making the same errors of the past, of poorly locating social housing that ends up abandoned. I think this strategy works on its own as housing developers are very resilient.
Regarding regulations, INFONAVIT and FOVISSSTE have their own boards and policies. I think that the law for the former is much more complicated than for the latter, so it should probably be revised by Congress to make it simpler and more flexible. We must also make sure to address sustainability issues and to fully comply with the territorial housing view that CONAVI pursues.
Q: At the closing of an administration and in your opinion, what policies or infrastructure projects had the most impact in bridging the country’s infrastructure gap?
A: There are a number of projects, such as NAIM, the Mexico City-Toluca Interurban Train and some other major road infrastructure projects that were not finalized and must continue during the new administration. I would like to emphasize the Special Economic Zones (ZEEs) in the south of the country, a project started only two years ago and that I believe it is important to consolidate in the years to come. This region is characterized by low income and scarce opportunities, so the idea to create a strategic area for economic development that will trigger investment and employment is crucial. To reinforce this project, it is important to generate a proper task force including the private and financial sectors and the local and federal authorities.
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