Chile’s urban planning strategies within the framework of the New Urban Agenda

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2017

27 Pages, Grade: 1,3



Table of content

1 Introduction

2 Chile - A Country Profile
2.1 Urban Development and Housing
2.2 History and Economy
2.3 Emerging Challenges

3 The Planning System
3.1 Further instruments
3.2 Emerging Challenges

4 The National Report of Chile and the National Urban Development Policy

5 Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda

6 Comparison National Urban Development Policy (PNDU) with the New Urban Agenda (NUA)
6.1 Structure of the PNDU
6.2 Comparison of the main topics of the PNDU with the NUA
6.2.1 Social Integration
6.2.2 Economic Development
6.2.3 Environmental Equilibrium/Resilience
6.2.4 Identity and Cultural Heritage
6.2.5 Institutionality and Governance
6.3 The NUA and what is missing in the PNDU
6.4 Discussion of Findings

7 Conclusion

8 References

List of Figures

Figure 1. Variation of the urban and rural population from 1907 - 2012

Figure 2. Dwelling deficit per year in Chile from 1992 - 2013

Figure 3. High income neighborhood and a poor neighborhood

Figure 4. Objectives of the National Urban Development Policy (PNDU)

List of tables

Table 1. Overview of urban planning levels and instruments in Chile

Table 2. Structure of the New Urban Agenda

Table 3. Frequency of significant terms in the NUA

1 Introduction

As urbanization is one of the “most transformative trends ” (NUA 2016: para 2) today, there is a special need for the development of solutions in urban areas to meet global challenges. This paper deals with the urban and territorial planning challenges and approaches in Chile, with special focus on the urbanization issues in the capital Santiago. Because of its size, its geological implications and the historical development Santiago de Chile has to face many challenges. Hence, in the first part of this paper a historical overview outlining the milestones in the urban development history of Chile will be given. This is important in order to adequately understand the current cities structure as well as social and ecological issues. Afterwards, the planning system will be explained. This is essential for an understanding of the actual urban development, its approaches and its contradictions.

The overall purpose of this paper is a positioning of Chiles planning challenges and approaches in the worldwide urban development. In order to do so the main part of this paper examines two important documents on urban development: The New Urban Agenda (NUA), the guideline for urban development of the United Nation (UN) on the worldwide level, and on the national level the National Urban Development Policy (PNDU), the urban development program for Chile. A detailed examination of both documents will help to address the country’s as well as the world's biggest urban development challenges. In the end it will be asked and discussed how the New Urban Agenda could help Chile in reducing their planning issues. In addition, some implications and contradictions concerning the implementation of newer planning approaches in Chile will be discussed.

For these purposes this paper is organised as follows:

In the first part a short country profile of Chile is given. In order to understand certain developments in the past and their importance for current planning issues there will be outlined selected aspects. Afterwards there will be explained the planning system. The fourth chapter deals with the planning challenges in Chile which can be on the one hand referred to historical rooted issues and on the other hand to issues within the planning system. It must be remarked that this first section up until chapter four doesn't build the main part of this paper so that their completeness cannot be assumed. Nevertheless, that part is important for an understanding of the National Urban Development Policy. Chapter five marks the start of the main part of this paper. After an illustration of the New Urban Agenda and the National Urban Development Policy both documents will be compared in order to analyse and reflect their main topics. By doing so their similarities and differences can be detected and major planning issues in Chile can be suggested. Furthermore, it will be discussed if and how the New Urban Agenda can help to resolve planning challenges in Chile.

2 Chile - A Country Profile

This chapter presents some general facts about Chile. In order to adequately address and explain the current urban planning challenges later on, it especially introduces relevant issues causing urban development troubles.

Chile is located in the south-west of South America and borders on Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. From the north to the south it has a size of 4.300 km and an average width of 180 km (OECD 2009: 58). Chile is a unitary country with four levels of government; the national, 15 regions, 52 provinces and 345 municipalities (OECD 2009: 46). The country has over 18 million inhabitants (2015) from whom 87 % are living in urban areas (PNDU, 2014, p. 9).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1. Variation of the urban and rural population from 1907 - 2012.

Source: Gobierno de Chile 2016: 6.

2.1 Urban Development and Housing

The urban population growth rate is high and continues to grow more rapidly than the rural population (Figure 1). However, the developments vary in between cities. While the growth rates in smaller cities can be explained by population growth, medium and large cities are growing through suburbanization processes (OECD 2013: 41 ff.). The most populated area in Chile is the metropolitan area of Santiago with nearly half of the population living in it. It’s the second highest index of geographic concentration of population (data from 2006) within the OECD countries. (OECD 2009: 59). Santiago is the capital of the country with over 7 million inhabitants and a density of 85 inhabitants per hectar, which means that the city is relatively crowded compared to other cities in development countries (Gobierno de Chile 2016: 6). Since 1980 the population of Santiago has doubled and lead to a high housing deficit in the city. During the Habitat II conference the Chilean government promoted that access to affordable housing is an essential factor to overcome poverty. For that reason, the Ministry of Housing and

Urbanism (MINVU) focused in the past mainly on the provision of adequate housing (Gobierno de Chile 2016: 13 ff.). Figure 2 shows the reducing of the dwelling deficit in Chile from 1992 to 2013.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2. Dwelling deficit per year in Chile from 1992 - 2013.

Source: Own illustration based on Gobierno de Chile 2016: 8.

The achievements in the provision of adequate housing are exceptional for a country in Latin America. However, there is also criticism about the “how”. Many articles are calling the housing subsidies to account for the problem of residential segregation in Chile, especially in Santiago nowadays (Scarpaci, Infante, Gaete, 1988; AMCHAM Chile, 2012). MC Cawley (2015) argues that in addition to that the political economy and the so called “land use governance” plays an important role as well.

2.2 History and Economy

The present challenges in urban development in Chile are mostly described as outcomes of the country’s history and policy. A milestone was certainly the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet from 1973 until 1990. Besides huge antisocial, criminal and inhuman practices he reformed the political and economic system of Chile. During that time the previous socialist system was transferred into a neoliberal system. Through privatizations, external investments and the decrease of social security there have been immense transitions affecting the Chilean population in housing and urban development (Scarpaci, Infante, Gaete, 1988: 19-21; MC Cawley 2015: 123 ff.).

Although it's been 27 years and today the country is a unitary republic with a presidential regime and a democratic, multiparty political system some legacies of the dictatorship are still evident. Although the neoliberal system achieved high economic growth rates, it caused the immanent problem of social inequality, measured particularly by a very high Gini Index of 0.494. Thereby Chile is one of the most inequitable countries (OECD, 2009; PNDU 2014: 67).

The average annual economic growth rate of 5.7% (2009-2011) is still high. Particularly urban areas are the motor of economic growth. A total of 84% of the national GDP growth were accounted by functional urban areas (2003-2006) (OECD 2013: 84). Nevertheless, the economic growth was based on intensive exploitations of natural resources, deforestation and a pressure on agriculture, which resulted in many environmental concerns: the contamination of ground water, soil erosion and emissions. The over-concentration of industries in the metropolitan area makes Santiago as one of the most air-polluted cities in the world (OECD 2009: 63 ff.).

In addition, the issue of natural disasters must be addressed when talking about urban challenges later on. Chile is a country which is especially affected by a high number of earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural hazards (Gobierno de Chile 2016: 33).

As we could see, emerging challenges in Chile are particularly obvious in urbanized areas, as they are the most vulnerable. Therefore, most of the studies addressing spatial development issues in Chile are dealing with the metropolitan area of Santiago. The upcoming chapter embraces the most relevant challenges in Santiago de Chile, discussed in literature.

2.3 Emerging Challenges

As mentioned before, some of the presented facts can on the one hand be seen as attainments, on the other hand they were somehow responsible for the actual territorial challenges of the country. Historical implications of the dictatorship, the fast economic and population growth and the immense construction of housing units came along with some accompaniments: the negligence of the environment, a lack of cultural heritage protection, a deficit of public spaces, a problematic transport system and a lack of connectivity, social inequality and the mayor problem of socio-spatial segregation. Whereby poorer neighborhoods are particularly affected by most of these issues. (OECD 2013: 15; PNDU 2014: 13-14).

Santiago’s most concerning issue is socio-spatial segregation. One of the causes are past housing politics which promoted the quantity of housing over their quality and localization. Therefore, social housing units were mostly built in areas with low ground rents resulting in a concentration of poor neighborhoods. Their main problem is the lack of connectivity and access in terms of transport, social integration and public goods (PNDU 2014: 67). Figure 3 illustrates the visible spatial segregation of housing units.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 3. High income neighborhood in the north-east of Santiago (Costañera Center; left) and a poor neighborhood (Barrio Puente Alto; right), financed by social housing programs.

Source: destination/ 178306/Costanera-Center-68635.jpg right: original/ 14407332.jpg

Nevertheless, these problems cannot all be attributed to previous matters and governmental decision making. The current urban development challenges in Chile are complex and diverse. However, it remains urgent to handle these challenges. One of the approaches are for example national or international policy papers such as the National Urban Development Policy (PNDU) or the New Urban Agenda (NUA) which will be analyzed later on.

All in all the most urgent urban challenges in Chile according to the Urban Policy Review of the OECD are the following:

Inequality (measured by income disparities)

Housing market challenges (segregation, real estate development)

Environmental trends in Chilean cities (air quality, green areas, waste, wastewater treatment quality, quality of life matters) (OECD, 2013, pp. 59 ff.).

3 The Planning System

The Chilean government structure as well as the planning system have traditionally been sector driven. That means that several institutions on diverse levels of government are involved in urban development in Chile, while they are acting independently at the same time. The rising need for integral approaches to urbanism forces national policy makers to reform this traditional system. Even if there have been adjustments by establishing project based programs in problematic areas, such as housing programs or transport systems, the planning system and its instruments are basically the same as they were at the time of their implementation in the 1960s (OECD 2013: 144 ff.).

Thus, the current planning system can be distributed into four main planning levels. The national level, the regional level, the inter-communal level and the municipal level. Table 1 demonstrates the planning levels regarding the involved institutions, their instruments as well as their main tasks.

Table 1. Overview of urban planning levels and instruments in Chile.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Own illustration with reference to Reiß, A. 2007: 60.

On the national level there are formal as well as informal instruments which manage urban development planning in Chile. There are two important formal tools setting the rules for urban planning and construction: the General Law of Urban Development and Construction (Ley General de Urbanismo y Construcciones) and its related ordinance (Ordenanza General de Urbanismo y Construcciones). These two are guiding directly the planning through determining principles, responsibilities, rights, regulations, technical norms as well as administrative procedures (AMCHAM Chile, 2012; OECD 2013: 78).

The informal planning instrument on the national level is the National Urban Development Policy. After very time-consuming debates during the creation process, this program was finally and for the first time implemented in 2014. It contains guidelines for urban development in Chile for the next 50 years (AMCHAM Chile 2012; Ministerio de Vivienda y Urbanismo 2014).

The General Law of Urban Development and Construction defines the establishment of tree important planning instruments: The Regional Plan for Urban Development (Plan Regional de Desarrollo Urbano - PRDU), the Inter-municipal and Metropolitan Regulating Plan (Plan Regulador Intercomunal - PRI or Metropolitano - PRM) and the Municipal Regulating Plan (Plan Regulador Comunal - PRC) (Ley General de Urbanismo y Contrucciones 1975).

They will be explained consecutively:

The Regional Plan for Urban Development (PRDU) has to be implemented by the Regional Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urbanism (SEREMI MINVU) with accordance of the regional politics of economic development, thus on the regional level. It is a non-binding tool but its principles have to be considered and integrated by lower levels of planning. The content of the PRDU includes an explanatory chapter, a regional diagnostic and guidelines for railways, roads, seaports, airports and international borders, energy and telecommunication infrastructure as well as a definition of priority settlement areas. The PRDU will be replaced in the future by the Regional Plan for Land-Use Planning (Plan Regulador de Ordenamiento Territorial - PROT) (Ley General de Urbanismo y Contrucciones 1975; OECD 2013: 79).

On the inter-municipal and/or metropolitan level1 there is the so called Inter-municipal Regulating Plan (PRI) or, when the population of the area exceeds 500.000 inhabitants, the Metropolitan Regulating Plan (PRM). Therefore, the PRM is considered as version of the PRI. Such as the PRDU the plan must be approved by the Regional Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urbanism (SEREMI MINVU) as well as by tangled municipalities. In accordance with article No° 35 the plan has to include objectives and action programs, an ordinance with regulations and a plan. The plan gives evidence about the general distribution of zones, infrastructure, road relations and connectivity, areas of prior development, densities and the boundaries of the territorial area which he addresses whereby he differentiates urban and rural areas. All in all he regulates the physical development of the corresponding area and gives orientations for lower level planning (Ley General de Urbanismo y Contrucciones 1975).

On the municipal level there is the Municipal Regulating Plan (PRC) which is obligatory for each Municipality to create. The plan governs the spatial development of the municipality and separates the areas that are available for urban development from the areas that are not by determining urban boundary (límite urbano). Furthermore the plan defines among others the land-use and zoning of the areas, the transport infrastructure, densities and determines territories of priority. The Municipal Council develops and approves the plan after a public consultation process with the affected community. After that the MINVU SEREMI of the region has to approve the plan as well. If necessary, the municipality can make use of Sectional Plans (Plan Seccional) which is a detailed plan for a specific construction area (Ley General de Urbanismo y Contrucciones 1975,; OECD 2013: 80).

3.1 Further instruments

In order to achieve coherence between economic and spatial development and a comprehensive planning approach, Chile established a number of non-statutory instruments at the regional level that impact urban development at the beginning of the 21st century. The following instruments are only a selection, but according to the OECD (2013) the most promising.

The Regional Development Strategy (Estrategia Regional de Desarrollo - ERD), the Municipal Development Plan (Plan de Desarrollo Comunal - PLADECO) and the Regional Plan for Land-Use Planning (Plan Regional de Ordenamiento Territorial - PROT. The PROT will replace the PRDU in the future. The PLACEDO promotes coherence between urban development, land-use planning and general economic development and therefore fulfill the function of a management tool. It contains a diagnosis of the characteristics, strengths and challenges of the municipality and identifies its main development priorities (OECD 2013: 88 ff.).

3.2 Emerging Challenges

The General Law of Urban Development and Construction and its Ordinance, combined with the various Regulating Plans built the statutory framework for spatial development in Chile. Nevertheless, their focus is on the regulation of the buildings and physical development of the cities. They neglect and therefore have little influence on public transport, infrastructure or economic development. The hierarchical and centralized state apparatus foster and perpetuate a top-down approach. Besides, administrative procedures, the lack of coordination amongst authorities and the use of very old PRC's hinder an overall and integrated planning just as much. But nowadays the need of an integrated spatial planning approach is fundamental to meet the current urban development challenges. The newer instruments as the PLACEDO, the ERD and the PROT can help to ensure an integrated urban planning approach, but their influence is because of their not-statutory status still weak.


1 For urban planning purposes in Chile the definition of inter-municipal areas is characterized as “urban and rural areas that are integrated into an urban unit (i.e. when more than one municipal entity comprises the urban unit)” (OECD, 2013, p. 79 quoted from the original document Ley General de Urbanismo y Contrucciones, 1975, Artículo 34° “ Se entender á por Planificaci ó n Urbana Intercomunal aquella que regula el desarrollo fisico de las á reas urbanas y rurales de diversas comunas que, por sus relaciones, se integran en una unidad urbana”).

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Chile’s urban planning strategies within the framework of the New Urban Agenda
TU Dortmund
Masterseminar International Planning
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ISBN (Book)
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New Urban Agend, Chile, Internationale Planung, UN Habitat, Santiago de Chile, Nationale Planungsstrategie
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Anonymous, 2017, Chile’s urban planning strategies within the framework of the New Urban Agenda, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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