Montevideo presents “Fincas”: An urban renewal project aimed at transforming abandoned properties into housing initiatives with a social function

Montevideo presents today the work done by the city in the framework of the project “Fincas”. Through carrying out actions at different levels, Fincas aims at recovering abandoned properties at the heart of the city for Montevideo’s Cartera de Tierras (Land Portfolio) and, thus, transform them in the long run into common goods with a social function for the city. Fincas is based on a consolidated cooperation scheme between Montevideo’s municipality, civil society, academia and the Uruguayan national government.

How is this policy implemented?

Montevideo has developed this project through the use of existing legal tools, which allow the municipality to recover abandoned, private urban land, in order to give it a concrete social use through new housing and habitat projects. Once the property has been recovered, the municipality incorporates it into Montevideo’s “Cartera de Tierras”: A city-land-portfolio mechanism with more than twenty-five years of history that facilitates inhabitants’ access to land for developing social and cooperative housing projects.

One of Fincas key features as an urban renewal project lies in the emphasis given to land use law and achieving a “re-densification” of the city - in other words, to transform Montevideo into a more dense city. By giving a social use (and returning to its residents) central urban locations, Fincas aims to combat abandonment and gentrification of some districts within the city. By shortening the material and symbolic distance between central and peripheral areas, Fincas helps to build a more cohesive city and promotes the right to the city.

What concrete initiatives has the project led to?

The set of projects which have been implemented in the framework of Fincas is especially varied, and has benefited from agreements with both national Ministries as well as local civil society. Several housing and habitat initiatives have focused, for example, in providing new “temporary shelters” for homeless people, such as women with children or people waiting for social housing allocation. Along the same lines, several housing lots have also been transformed into social rental housing.

Other initiatives, such as the “dispersed cooperative” model, have been instrumental to promote alternative forms of cooperative housing, and to protect residents in areas exposed to strong speculative pressure. Indeed, the main goal of this model has been none other than to protect residents from gentrification in central city areas. Finally, Fincas has also sponsored projects with community and recreational purposes, such as the “Casa Trans”: An initiative that promotes the exercise of rights of transgender people.

What is the political vision of the project?

According to Montevideo’s Urban Development Department, projects such as Fincas help the city achieve a model of “urban development that has a human scale and proposes alternatives to speculation, urban extractivism or predatory growth”. It also helps “put at the center of urban development people's needs and their right to the city”. According to Silvana Pissano, Director of Urban Development, thanks to Fincas “we find places that are empty of use, of the richest thing that a city has, which is space for meeting and for life”.

The political vision of Montevideo regarding the right to the city and spatial justice was also assessed by Mayor Daniel Martinez on the occasion of the “Cities for Adequate Housing” Declaration launching: “If you live far from central spaces and do not have means of transportation that take you to services and urban opportunities you are in a certain way excluded. The right to the city gives us a global perception that implies housing as the right to live part of a community with equal starting point” (see the full video here).

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