Chile, housing policy, urban housing stock, housing shortage


Since 2006, Chilean housing policy has undergone a paradigm shift by focusing its attention on improving the quality of the urban housing stock. At that time, it was considered that the quantitative housing shortage had a certain degree of control from the state and institutions, with a sustained decrease compared to the Latin American context. However, since 2017, the housing shortage has shown a worrying increase, currently reaching its highest point since the return to democracy in the 1990s.

With a current housing shortage of 739,603 dwellings, representing almost 12% of the total national housing shortage and affecting almost 2.2 million people, 12% of the national population, there is talk of a new housing crisis in Chile.

Migratory and economic crises and the current COVID-19 pandemic add to the various factors that attempt to explain this increase in the housing shortage. However, this crisis is not only a housing shortage crisis, but also a crisis of quality and the persistence of housing and urban environment decay, which, despite an institutional policy to improve urban and housing quality that has been in existence for two decades, has not managed to reduce the gap. In this sense, the current housing shortage can be understood not only from the perspective of the quantity of missing housing, but also as a crisis exacerbated by the quality of the housing and urban stock built. In this sense, institutional factors have not been particularly highlighted as possible causes or aggravators of the housing conflict, in the sense of understanding how the institutional framework has perceived the urban decay and housing shortages.

This article seeks to analyse how the Chilean urban-housing institutional framework has been modelling, through plans and programmes, its Urban Housing Policy of Improving the Quality and Social Integration of Chile, in the period between 2006, the year of the paradigmatic shift from housing quantity to housing quality, and 2021, when the housing shortage crisis was declared, as a way of understanding from where the institutions have epistemologically positioned themselves to generate the response to the housing shortage, with special emphasis on the quality shortage.

It is hypothesised that Chilean urban and housing institutions, through their policy of quality improvement, have shifted the focus from subsidiarity to the understanding of housing deterioration, reflecting in interventions that, although they have a narrative in line with the search for quality, are based on proposals of extreme social targeting and lack of territorial relevance, the same principle under which the model of mass housing construction was developed in previous decades. Through documentary and bibliographic analysis, the history of Chile's Urban Housing Policy of Improving Quality and Social Integration is reconstructed, under which a series of programmes and plans have been organised to address the qualitative urban-housing shortage. This historiographic analysis allows us to understand where the Chilean institutional framework has been situated to address the quality shortage of its existing urban-housing stock, through various milestones of the national housing policy that reveal conflicts, rigidity, and institutional centralism, which in turn hinder the recognition of cultural and territorial diversity in the interventions.

This article, as part of an ongoing doctoral research, hopes to be a contribution to the critical review of the policy of qualitative housing shortage, given that Chile has been a reference at the international level with its subsidised policy of access to social housing in previous times and that today, in the context of a new global housing crisis, the institutional responses address the crisis not only as a matter of quantity, but also in a comprehensive manner.