2022-02-25 17:14:36

Buenos Aires’ Barrio 31 Social & Urban Integration Plan

The Argentine city of Buenos Aires accommodates 2.9 million residents and the country’s most emblematic informal settlement, Barrio 31. Located in the heart of downtown Buenos Aires this long-standing neighbourhood covers around 72 hectares and houses some 40,000 people.

Considering eradication and resettlement efforts since the 1970s have all proved fruitless, this latest effort adopts an integration approach. It is based on a holistic approach and tackles the long-lasting problems faced by the residents at the same time. The plan will see to the construction of infrastructure (sewage, drainage, water and electrical connections, streets, and public lighting); renovation of public spaces; development of new houses and improvement of existing ones; building of schools and health centres; and boosting social and economic development. Innovation is also promoted in every decision and solution. For instance, sustainable construction material and solar energy are prioritised for infrastructure.

The main obstacle to the implementation comes from residents’ distrust of the government, which has been trying to displace them forcefully for decades. This is overcome by engaging them in the process and welcoming debates. The socio-economic aspect of the initiative also helps rebuild the trust. The city demands that construction contractors hire local residents and encourages companies to move to this area on the condition that they do not displace local entrepreneurs.

Well into the fifth year of implementation, the neighbourhood has seen considerable improvement in living environment and access to basic services. This includes 17 kilometres of new infrastructure, 26 improved public spaces, new streets and connection to the city’s formal public transportation system, 4 new schools and 3 primary health care centres. Some 800 families have moved in the more than 1,100+ new homes, becoming the first formal home-owners in the area. Formal jobs have been created for more than 900 residents, and training has been provided to another 3,500. A total of 1,200 inhabitants have registered their businesses or activities, and 300 stores await formal authorisation to operate.

This initiative is trailblazing in Argentina and will pave the way for the transformation of more than 4,400 informal settlements across the country. It contributes to the realisation of SDGs 1 (no poverty), 3 (good health and wellbeing), 4 (quality education), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure), 10 (reduced inequalities), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and 13 (climate action).