The Buenos Aires city government will move its Education Ministry to Villa 31, a slum of some 43,000 people in Retiro, as part of a new plan to urbanise the neighbourhood.
City mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta confirmed the move – to be completed before his term ends in 2019 – as part of the local government’s new ‘Treinta y todos’ plan to better integrate the villa into the city.
The plan also includes the construction of six new schools and education centres in the villa, as well as new health and work training centres.
“This is the first step to break paradigms, to change realities that no-one believed would change,” said Rodríguez Larreta, adding that he aimed to changed the neighbourhood’s name to ‘Barrio 31’.
Another part of the plan is to divert the Illia highway that currently runs through and over Villa 31, turning the structure into a public ‘green corridor’.
Incorporating the city’s slums – home to more than 200,000 people according to latest estimates – into the formal urban space is a long overdue demand of the local authorities.
A 2009 law obliged the city administration to urbanise Villa 31, but this and five similar laws for other villas in the city have so far not been properly enforced. Spending on social housing in declined steadily from 2011-2015 – during President Mauricio Macri’s second term as city mayor. Less than 1% of last year’s budget was destined to the city’s villas, according to non-partisan government oversight group ACIJ.
This lack of urbanisation has led to countless accidents causing injuries or death due to informal constructions and a lack of access to basic health and education services.
Some residents of Villa 31 told The Indy last year that the urbanisation envisaged by the city government has so far involved mostly superficial measures like painting houses and planting trees rather than provide permanent solutions to basic problems.
Rodríguez Larreta told local radio that his vision is for residents of the villa to pay to obtain title deeds for their houses, a move he said would give people the “dignity” of owning their own home. However, some in Villa 31 fear that the state’s long-term plan involves new property development on what is considered prized real estate, something denied by Rodríguez Larreta.
The ‘Treinta y todos’ proposal was announced yesterday as part of 15 new policy pledges to be completed by 2019. Other pledges include installing wheelchair ramps in every corner of the city by 2018, and electronic system for storing medical records in every public health centre, and reach 200 stations for the city’s bike-rental programme ‘Eco-bici’.