[14 September 2018] -- Last month, Paraguay launched a new National Housing and Habitat Policy that is remarkable in several ways.
First, the process of developing the policy introduced a participatory culture in Paraguay – a major innovation for the country and how it approaches housing. It also incorporated the concept of integrated slum upgrading, helping Paraguay take a more holistic approach to housing that includes the social and economic elements in addition to construction.
Second, development of the policy ran parallel to the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) process, in which Paraguay played a leadership role as a strong advocate for housing and urban issues in the region. This allowed Paraguay to connect the dots and use the space to create a policy that aligns with the global sustainable development agendas.
Cities Alliance supported the policy development process in Paraguay together with our members Chile, GIZ, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and Habitat for Humanity International, among others. The policy is an important legacy for Cities Alliance in a region where we have a longstanding presence and strong partnerships, and it showcases how relatively small investment (US$ 75,000) can have a big impact.
A policy is born
Like other countries in Latin America, Paraguay has a large housing deficit. People are migrating from rural to urban areas, and without access to soft loans, many find themselves living in poor housing with inadequate services. A 2011 report by SENAVITAT, the federal agency responsible for housing policy, estimated that Paraguay needs around 1.1 million houses, and that figure is increasing each year.
There have been various housing programmes in Paraguay, but most have focused on building new houses in rural areas.. A guiding policy would help harmonise these programmes and channel them into a vision for the country.
The process began in 2015, when Chile’s Ministry of Housing and Urbanism (MINVU) entered into a trilateral cooperation with GIZ and Paraguay to begin institutional development on a housing policy for Paraguay and requested Cities Alliance support
The trilateral cooperation partners started with exploratory missions to identify niches for technical exchange and cooperation on housing, with the support from Cities Alliance Regional Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean Anaclaudia Rossbach. These missions helped the team find out what kind of housing programmes the various development actors – especially Habitat for Humanity International and IDB – had underway in Paraguay.
The missions also helped identify a niche area of support for Cities Alliance: development of a national housing and habitat policy to complement the activities of IDB and GIZ.
We provided US $75,000 in funding for the policy development and technical assistance, which included hiring a local research institute connected to the University of Asunción Faculty of Architecture, CIDi-FADA, to help local stakeholders develop the policy and create capacity for implementation. The institute could also bring the knowledge acquired through the process to university classes and a wide range of knowledge activities.
SENAVITAT, Paraguay’s national housing agency, with support from CIDi - FADA engaged local governments, civil society, academia, private sector, public institutions throughout the policy design process in both technical and political discussions. It was a coordinated effort with and unprecedented level of participation and engagement from the civil society perspective. .
In addition to the Institute, Cities Alliance funding was used to hire an international consultant from Brazil, Ruth Jurberg, an architect and social expert leading slum upgrading projects in Rio de Janeiro. Ms. Jurberg worked with GIZ and the government of Paraguay and facilitated the structuring of a social component for the housing policy. At the same time, IDB started a loan for slum upgrading projects using this integrated approach.
Convergence with the Habitat III process
The development process for Paraguay’s housing and habitat policy was especially interesting because it ran parallel to preparations for Habitat III. Paraguay held the presidency of the General Assembly of Ministers of Housing and Urban Development of Latin America and the Caribbean (MINURVI) from July 2015-16 – precisely when the preparatory process for Habitat III was underway.
During this time, Paraguay was a strong advocate for housing and urban issues in the region, and it led the main advocacy messages from LAC that were presented at Habitat III in Quito. This strong leadership promoted positive synergies within the development process for the housing policy and with Cities Alliance institutional representation at the regional level.
Minister of Housing and Habitat Soledad Nuñez of SENAVITAT actively participated in Habitat III preparatory events around the region and hosted an event focused on developing the LAC region’s official report to the Habitat III conference. Through these exchanges, Ms. Nuñez and SENAVITAT were able to gather considerable insights from stakeholders and international agencies on how to promote institutional development in Paraguay.
Habitat III also had another significant benefit for Paraguay’s housing policy. The national government established a committee on habitat to oversee the Habitat III preparatory process in Paraguay – a process which heavily emphasised participation. In the absence of a traditional participation mechanism with a focus on housing and habitat, this committee was able to provide a governance structure for overseeing development and implementation of the housing policy, in alignment with principles and guidelines from GIZ, IDB, Cities Alliance and Chile.
What's ahead for the policy
The policy was formally launched on 10 August 2018, and its prospects are bright. With the strong involvement of the national Habitat III committee and the influential research institute, local stakeholders have been empowered to push for continuation and withstand political changes.
The policy has a strong monitoring system with national targets, and there are many follow-up actions at the institutional level. The most urgent are the need to upgrade Paraguay’s urban legal framework to better implement the policy and solidify the governance mechanism for the national committee that is providing oversight. Enhancing local capacity at the city level is also critical to implementation, and this is seen as a role for the national government.