Housing policies in Chile have managed to provide shelter for the poor and reduce the housing deficit, stabilizing construction activity within the national economy. From the mid-1980s until 2000, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MINVU) funded the construction of some 600,000 homes, although of very low quality and standards. The Villa Los Cóndores housing development in Temuco, Chile, is a complex of 900 basic homes, built in the mid-90s at the height of MINVU’s housing subsidy, when it pressed its regional executors in the Department for Housing and Urban Services (SERVIU) to meet their set budgetary targets by any means possible. Ten units per 1,000 inhabitants were being constructed at that time in Chile, the same soaring annual rate as in Germany after the Second World War.
Villa Los Cóndores is part of the Pedro Valdivia Norte sector lying on the edge of Temuco, which holds a population of 240,000 inhabitants and is the capital city of the Araucanía Region. Construction was funded by MINVU’s housing subsidy and the resulting homes were about 40 square meters in size, within three-storey buildings with metal staircases descending into a central courtyard.
Unlike other complexes in the sector, Villa Los Cóndores was a technological pilot project constructed on uneven terrain containing areas where wáter gushes freely. Seeking to lower costs as much as possible, SERVIU allowed a construction company to build housing blocks with flimsy metal structures and lacking seismic reinforcement. Since the completion of the complex, columns have given way due to insufficient protection from ground moisture, and fragile walls made from thin, cheap drywall have damaged easily.
Life has been difficult and complicated for the 900 households that reside in Villa Los Cóndores since the development of the complex in 1996. Even though not required to do so, SERVIU forgave the credit debts of the complex’s residents, which amounted to 40 percent of the value of their homes. As such, they became the owners of homes in very poor condition, and SERVIU managed to shed all responsibility for their inadequate living conditions as these residents became private homeowners. Complaints of these living conditions made by the residents of Villa Los Cóndores reached as far as Chile’s parliament in 2004.
To preserve the safety of the residents, the Chamber of Deputies of the National Congress ordered the destruction of Los Cóndores, executed through legislative power with which MINVU was forced to comply.
To proceed with the dismantling of the housing complex, SERVIU offered residents a compensation of 280 UF (approximately €7,000 or US$9,700), an insignificant amount compared to the value of their homes at the time of construction. Out of fear and ignorance, residents, who at this point had lived in the housing complex’s substandard conditions for ten years, began to sign deeds with SERVIU for the resale of their homes. With the compensation they received from by SERVIU, residents had to look for housing even farther away from the city centre of Temuco. Due to the increased land value in Temuco, these households ended up in San Ramon, more than 20 kilometres away from the city centre. To supposedly offset the poor conditions of the resale of the homes in Villa Los Cóndores, SERVIU authorized residents to take everything with them, which they did. They took installations, windows, and doors, and before leaving they tore down the walls. Little by little, the Villa Los Cóndores neighbourhood became a no man’s land, seized by gangs and drug addicts.
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