Friday, October 22

Inhabiting urban heritage in pandemic | Urban Beings | Future Planet

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The covid-19 pandemic has deepened the socio-spatial inequalities and the dynamics of capitalist reappropriation of the city, which have been developing for decades. Tenant evictions have been added to the trends of depopulation, outsourcing, tourism, and social displacement in the historic center of Mexico City: households that, upon losing their job or decreasing their income, cannot continue to pay the rent of the dwelling they occupy. and they are evicted by peaceful or violent means with or without trial in between.

In 1950, the historic center housed 400,000 inhabitants, but in 2020 there were only 155,000. This depopulation is part of a much larger phenomenon. Between 1990 and 2020, Mexico City (until 2018 Federal District) grew by 956,447 inhabitants, but 10 municipalities increased their population by 1,306,646, while six central municipalities decreased by 350,199 neighbors.

The causes are multiple: changes in land use, physical deterioration, absence of housing policy in central areas, “rescue” of urban heritage, pedestrianization of streets … In a market economy with limited and increasingly flexible urban regulations , the most profitable activities displace the housing function. When comparing land uses by land from the 2001 Cadastre with a land use survey from the Historic Center Authority of 2017, we identify that housing uses decrease (8% mixed housing and 4% exclusive housing), while they increased services in 13.8% and shops in 2.26%. Thus, despite the absolute increase of 10,600 homes between 1990 and 2020, housing use at the property level continues to decline. It is worth adding that this territory concentrates 10% of all economic units registered in the capital.

In this city, megaprojects financed by transnational capital have multiplied, through financial instruments created ex profeso in 2011 by federal authorities – Real Estate Investment Trusts (FIBRAS) and Real Estate Trust Certificates. Thus, in the last decade, 307 diverse megaprojects have been authorized: corporate skyscrapers and luxury homes, apartment and office towers, and shopping centers.

Trevi Building, evicted in 2019 and 2020.
Trevi Building, evicted in 2019 and 2020.Victor delgadillo

Recently the head of Government authorized the construction of another 17 megaprojects, only in Paseo de la Reforma, to “get out” of the economic crisis produced by the pandemic. These are megaprojects that do not respond to local needs. They are built more as assets that back financial investments, than to be rented or sold.

Several of these buildings are built on the periphery of the historic center, so we are talking about a real estate siege (with currently 15 megaprojects) that benefits from accessible, well-located, sparse territories and flexible urban regulations. Beyond the jobs they generate and the economic activities triggered by construction, they have negative effects on the city and its people, because they make the neighborhood more expensive and indirectly displace the population.

The housing policy in the historic center, by the last governments, has consisted of the regularization of tenure to insert the house in the “real estate traffic”, the attraction of the middle classes and the evictions, which have been legitimized (and even published in a Management and Management Plan endorsed by UNESCO) as part of the public security policy. The current head of government has carried out four social housing projects and has announced the rehabilitation of nine neighborhoods (run them in Spain) occupied by indigenous people and the implementation of 10 programs with 907 private investment homes, of which 300 would be “inclusive homes”.

It is not explained if these houses will be assigned by the authorities or will be sold in the free market. In addition, we always doubt the good intentions of the “left” government, which has designed urban instruments to build social housing, but they ended up being co-opted by real estate companies that obtained tax incentives, administrative and regulatory facilities that allowed them to further densify the properties , but they sold the houses at market price.

Neighborhoods of the Historic Center:
Neighborhoods of the Historic Center: “regularize” them to insert them in the “real estate traffic”.Victor delgadillo

Likewise, in a city where there are no instruments to defend the right to housing and the city enshrined in the 2018 Mexico City Constitution, it is normal that many homes, even those produced with high public subsidies (such as the Casa de la Covadonga, which was financed by the Junta de AndalucĂ­a), are offered in the AirBnB temporary rental market. In February 2020, almost 600 accommodations were offered in this territory, several of them in complete buildings.

Some of the recent rehabilitation projects for existing buildings in select territories have included the eviction of their residents. Perhaps the most mediatic case has been that of the Trevi Building, carried out progressively between 2019 and 2020, because a journalist who lived there and the TorterĂ­a Robles (on the ground floor) organized a great resistance, useless for the former. The same type of evictions is carried out in various parts of the city, often with the same private actors, as a condition for carrying out financed projects.

Thus, the Attorney General’s Office of Mexico City reports that in 2020 there were an average of nine daily evictions in the city and 55 evictions in 21 streets of the historic center. Several of them have been carried out with violence, have been decreed by provincial judges and carried out by private security. In this context it is very little credible that the efforts of the local authority are directed to the construction of living and inhabited centers for the current residents in the “new normal”.

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