Authors: Ayala, Alonso
Title: Urban upgrading intervention and barrio integration in Caracas, Venezuela
Language (ISO): en
Abstract: “Spatial segregation is the reflection of social structures onto space”. Understood as a negative condition the socio-spatial segregation of urban dwellers as the opposing form to urban integration has become a major hindrance to both functional urban development and the inclusive vision that cities are supposed to foster. This premise forms the underpinning rational to construct this dissertation using the situation of the informal settlements of Caracas, Venezuela, as its subject of analysis. Like in many other Latin American major cities the rapid and unregulated urbanization of Caracas is compounded by social polarization, socio-economic inequalities and urban fragmentation. Inefficient government responses to provide large portions of the urban population with adequate access to housing have resulted in the formation and consolidation of informally-built areas outside the purview of urban regulations. Known in Venezuela as barrios de ranchos, these settlements are the spatial manifestation of urban poverty, social exclusion and precarious urban conditions characterized by poor quality housing, poor access to basic services, insecure property rights, and ambiguous citizenship, all of this contributing to their lack of integration to the surrounding city. The physical and socio-economic integration and inclusion of these urban dwellers represent a tremendous challenge for policymakers, professionals and civil society alike. Particular attention must be devoted to them in order to understand why the situation has evolved into what is today with the purpose of envisioning strategies aimed at integrating them to mainstream urban development. Actions to remedy this situation have fallen under projects and programmes implemented in a piecemeal basis, tackling mostly the physical improvement of these settlements. Such actions, at least in the Venezuelan context, have been many times tainted by political patronage and manipulation. It is argued in this dissertation that an integrated, holistic and multi-disciplinary approach denuded from political patronage is necessary to activate the integration process of these settlements. In this context, urban upgrading interventions have assumed a special significance in the process of spatial and socio-economic integration of barrios. For the purpose of this dissertation a specific upgrading project in one informal settlement in Caracas has been chosen to both explore the meaning of integration and how to actually achieve it by drawing up the lessons derived from the project‟s planning and implementation process. The project, known as the Caracas Barrio Upgrading Project (CAMEBA), has been undertaken in two major barrio agglomerations of Caracas in an attempt towards devising a humane and integrated barrio renewal policy. The empirical evaluation of CAMEBA is believed to offer valuable insights and positive lessons for future implementation of urban integrationist strategies. The main objective of this dissertation is therefore to explore the meaning of urban integration using the implementation process of project CAMEBA as its subject of research. In order to operationalize the research, the theorethical underpinnings of Polanyi´s modes of economic integration were used as the base to construct the analytical model to be tested in the field. The articulation of such model was guided on the other hand by a European research on urban integration known as the URBEX project, which applied Polanyi‟s model in spatial terms and emphazised the interplay of three functional domains as the key to socio-economic integration, viz. the State´s redistributive policies, public reciprocity and the dynamics of market exchange. Even though the theoretical underpinnings of the model were used by the URBEX project in the context of Western cities in Europe, this dissertation attempted to adapt the analytical framework envisaged by this project to the particular situation of the barrios of Caracas. Through this theoretical exercise a number of variables and indicators were developed to measure the degree of socio-economic, political and spatial integration of the barrio intervened by the upgrading project of CAMEBA. The complexity of the issue called for an understanding of the different forces and processes behind the social, economic, political and spatial exclusion of the large portion of the Venezuelan urban dwellers that live in barrios. The exploration thus far points out to the fact that urban upgrading endeavours in informal settlements in the context analysed can only be sustainable and relevant if the community being intervened is able to own the process and become the main stakeholder of the intervention. The study reveals that the process of barrio upgrading must be activated and sustained over a period of time in order to enable barrio inhabitants to realize their much cherished aspirations including the achievement of a sense of socio-economic and political integration and a sustained improvement in the quality of their lives. Quality access to basic and physical infrastructure, socio-political recognition of barrios and fostering of proactive community organizations while enabling their meaningful participation in the barrio upgrading process emerge as the major preconditions for working towards the urban integration of barrios. The analytical model articulated in the study stands out as a useful contribution to the scientific debate regarding urban integration, and it is expected to inform policymakers and urban specialists about posible paths towards the integration of informal settlements.
Subject Headings: Barrios
Caracas
Slum upgrading
Urban integration
Subject Headings (RSWK): Caracas
Slum
Wohnungspolitik
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2003/29398
http://dx.doi.org/10.17877/DE290R-3390
Issue Date: 2012-03-29
Appears in Collections:Geographische Grundlagen und Raumplanung in Entwicklungsländern

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