Researching federal policy in Mexico City
In 2019, I received a SLAS Travel Grant that allowed me to conduct fieldwork in Mexico City as part of my PhD research in Human Geography.
My research aims to explore the effects of using housing financing to achieve urban planning. A recent federal policy in Mexico, the Urban Containment Perimeters (UCPs), directs subsidies for the development of social housing towards certain areas as a way to ensure new developments are located closer to the urban core, with better access to urban services. I seek to understand how this policy is negotiated by different actors, at different scales and to different ends, and to assess how effective it is in limiting urban sprawl.
Between April and June 2019, I conducted a total of 36 in-depth interviews with different stakeholders involved in the housing development process in Mexico. Among these, were high-rank former federal officials, part of the previous federal administration (2012-2018), who was in charge of conceiving and implementing the policy of interest (UCPs). The fact that these officials were no longer part of the government facilitated their willingness in meeting me and sharing their experiences.
I also interviewed mid- and large-size private developers focusing on building social housing in the peripheral municipalities of the Metropolitan Area of Mexico City (MAMC). These developers were directly affected by the implementation of the UCPs and managed to share their perceptions of these policies and the overall housing development process.
Although not initially planned, I managed to interview two real estate financial advisors, who provided valuable information regarding the overall real estate market behaviour and share important databases with me.
In addition to these interviews, I had the opportunity to visit 3 municipalities with the largest amount of newly built housing developments in the MAMC: Huehuetoca, Zumpango and Tecamac. These municipalities also hold the highest vacancy rates of the region, some reaching up to 44% of the total housing stock. Besides doing some site visits, it was vital for me to obtain the local authorities’ perspective regarding the implementation of the UCPs. To my surprise, only one of the three municipalities knew about this policy, showing huge discrepancies between federal and local policies. [Find attached two pictures that I took in Huehuetoca showing El Dorado, a housing development with signs of housing abandonment].
The next step in my research is to process and analyse this valuable material and ground these findings using quantitative methods. This mixed-methods approach allows me to evaluate the success of the policy and its broader implications, understanding the intended and unintended consequences of its implementation.
I hope that my results could demonstrate the relevance of this innovative type of approach to limiting urban expansion. This is of broader importance to fast-growing cities beyond Mexico, given the innovative nature of the UCP approach to limiting urban sprawl, not by prohibition but by manipulation of financing mechanisms, guiding housing developers to look towards areas that are more suitable for development.
I would like to thank the Society for Latin American Studies for the support I received through this travel grant. Without this, my research would have limited my ability to provide a conclusive answer to my research question regarding the effectiveness of the UCPs in controlling urban expansion.
Department of Geography, UCL