Migration and Cities in Latin America: A Perspective from Vulnerable Territories
Migration is a growing phenomenon in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and currently at historical peaks in the region. It is most visible in the crisis-driven exodus from Venezuela to other countries in the region, and in the massive flows from Central American countries to the northern hemisphere.
Most of these migrants concentrate in informal settlements, and housing ranks high among their priorities as an important entry point to local policies and services. It is also a significant challenge for cities that are already struggling to provide decent housing for their populations.
This report captures the discussions and key messages of a Housing Laboratory on Informal Settlements and Migratory Phenomenon in LAC that took place on 13 May 2020 on the Urban Housing Practitioners Hub (UHPH).
Eighteen experts took part in the laboratory to discuss migration and informality trends in LAC and to explore different approaches that have been developed to address migrants’ housing needs in the region. They included:
• The comprehensive legal framework and mechanisms implemented by the Municipality of São Paulo, Brazil to integrate migrants into the city and provide them with access to housing programmes.
• How Chile's Ministry of Housing and Urbanism is facilitating international migrants' access to housing programmes by lessening eligibility requirements and providing support services, including a rental fund with subsidies.
• Geographic targeting underway in Cartagena, Colombia to collect much-needed information on international migrants in the city to better understand how to meet their needs, with support from the World Bank.
• How two cities in Guatemala are seeking to reintegrate migrants returning to the country (Amatitlán) and provide formal financial services for households that receive remittances (San Marcos). Both projects are part of the Cities Alliance Cities and Migration Programme.
• Mexico's policies and programmes protecting refugees and asylum seekers as well as an initiative by the city of Guadalajara to collect information on migrants to support the design of specific tools and policies for vulnerable groups.
• IADB is piloting projects in Uruguay and Colombia designed to facilitate access to tenancy through mechanisms such as a guarantee fund for low income families and a rental fund with subsidies.
• In the Dominican Republic, the government is investing USD 300,000 to build 7,000 social housing units and is providing incentives to the private sector (such as free land and tax exemptions) to produce 35,000 units. Part of the housing supply will be for Dominican families who receive remittances.
Migration as an opportunity for growth
The main message emerging from the discussions is that migration can be an opportunity of growth for cities, if adequately managed in urban, social, economic, and cultural areas. One critical condition for realising such opportunity is to search for policy solutions that promote win-win situations, in which benefits are shared by both migrants and recipient communities. This requires flexible regulation of new or existing policies in order to accommodate migrants, quality information on migrants, an adequate legal framework, institutional development, and capacity-building at the local level.
Migration is a core issue for Cities Alliance, which convened a Joint Work Programme for Cities and Migration to bring members together around the issue. The Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC) funds the programme and is a key partner in Cities Alliance’s migration work.