Out of the 3 billion people living in cities today, 1 billion is under the line of poverty. By 2030 out of the 5 billion people that will be living in cities, 2 billion are going to be under the line of poverty. That means that we will have to build a 1 million people city per week with 10,000 dollars per family. Given the magnitude of the housing shortage, we won’t solve this problem unless we add people’s own resources and building capacity to that of governments and market. That is why we thought of putting in place an OPEN SYSTEM able to channel all the available forces at play. In that way people will be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
(Above) Monterray Development in Mexico.
On the other hand, it is a fact that available resources are not enough. To face such scarcity of means, the market tends to do two things: Reduce and Displace; reduce the size of the houses, threatening the quality of life of its inhabitants, and displace them to underserved peripheries where land costs nothing, segregating people from the opportunities that made them come to cities in the first place. In order to face scarcity we propose a principle of INCREMENTALITY.
If you can´t do everything, focus on:
A. What is more difficult
B. What cannot be done individually
C. What will guarantee the common good in the future
We are inspired by this year’s Pritzker Prize (the architecture profession’s highest honour) winner, Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena identified 5 design conditions as the ABC of incremental housing:
- Good location: dense enough projects able to pay for expensive well located sites.
- Harmonious growth in time: build strategically the first half (partition structural and firewalls, bathroom, kitchen, stairs, roof) so that expansion happens thanks to the design and not despite it. Frame individual performances and actions, so that we get a customization instead of deterioration of the neighborhood.
- Urban layout: introduce in between private space (lot) and public space (street), the collective space, not bigger than 25 families, so that social agreements can be maintained.
- Provide structure for the final scenario of growth (middle class) and not just for the initial one.
- Middle-class DNA: plan for a final scenario of at least 72m2 or 4 bedrooms (3x3m), with space for closet or double bed, bathrooms should not be at the front door (which is the typical case to save pipes) but where bedrooms are; they may include a bathtub and not just a shower receptacle and space for washing machine; there should be possibility of parking place for a car. None of this is even close to be the case in social housing nowadays.
In other words, make sure you balance: low-rise high density, without overcrowding, with possibility of expansion (from social housing to middle class dwelling).
 In terms of time and money
 A middle-class family lives reasonably well in around 70 to 80 m2. When there is not enough money to do a middle class house, in the best of the cases, governments and markets are able to build 30 to 40m2.