Dissertation Abstracts

Informal housing production as a persistent aspect of urbanization in Valparaíso, Chile

Author: Felipe Valenzuela, fevalenzuela@uc.cl
Department: Instituto de Estudios Urbanos y Territoriales
University: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile
Supervisor: Javier Ruiz-Tagle
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: Spanish

Keywords: Informal settlements , Housing policy , Urban vulnerability , Urban social justice
Areas of Research: Housing and Built Environment , Regional and Urban Development , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy


The dissertation focuses on the persistence of informality as a strategy of the poor to have access to housing in Valparaíso, Chile. It aims to understand the role played by the State in tackling or reproducing informality, and what consequences it has in terms of urban social justice. After the implementation of housing policies aimed to reduce quantitative housing deficit during the 1980’s and 1990’s, the problem of “shelter for all” seemed almost solved in Chile, hence public discussion around housing has been increasingly focused on social and urban integration of neighborhoods as a way to promote social justice. Thus, problems related to land squatting and informal settlements, which used to be the most relevant in previous decades, have reduced their importance in housing policy. However, even though the scope of informality in the present is by far smaller than it was during the middle of the XX century, it still has a considerable incidence in some urban areas where informal settlements have been recently growing. That is the case of Valparaíso (Techo-Chile, 2015), where informality continues to be the way to access housing, especially for a part of the urban poor that has not been able to be eligible for public housing. Thus, the ability of the State to promote social justice through housing policy and urban planning is called into question. In this context, this research aims to address the following questions: How the persistence of informality in Valparaíso can be explained? And what does it imply in terms of urban social justice? More specifically, through what dynamics informal settlements have grown in Valparaíso from 1990 to 2017? And what role the State has played in such dynamics, either through planning or other ways of action? In order to address these topics I will work with the concept of urban informality, exploring its implications as a global issue, and also describing its local manifestations in the case of Valparaíso, where urban growth has been marked by informal settlements located in risky areas of hills and ravines. These settlements were self-constructed by their inhabitants, disregarding urban regulations and zoning. I will also analyze the role of the state regarding urban informality in Valparaíso, which involves not only housing policies but also planning instruments and investment initiatives in urban infrastructure with relevant consequences in informal settlements, aiming to understand to what extent the state is contributing to reproduce informality.