Latin American Residential Organisations

Organisation – South America

1960 onwards

Much of the social housing in Latin America is built through housing cooperatives which can arrange collective loans and can organise micro-financing. Most follow autogestión principles, meaning that they are self-organised and managed through autonomous, grassroots, and democratic decision making. Construction is usually carried out according to mutual self-help principles and although some co-operatives allow residents to sell their properties, others only allow them to be passed down to the next generation.

Chile in particular has a strong movement where over twenty percent of low rent housing has been built by housing co-operatives. In 1906, it was one of the earliest national governments to subsidise housing, and later the state became the second largest mortgage lender and largest housing provider in the country. However, the housing subsidy was inadequate and the export of this model to other countries has sometimes been used as an alternative to equitable housing policies. The low subsidy has led to some innovative housing solutions such as the model developed by Elemental at Iquique, or through the government working alongside international organisations, such as Habitat for Humanity, which provide organisational and technical assistance.

Several Latin American housing cooperatives are part of Secretaria Latinoamericana de Vivienda Popular (SeLVIP), an organisation set up to discuss alternatives to capitalist housing and planning systems; co-operatives representing Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Republica Dominica and Venezuela are part SeLVIP. Established in 1990, it organises annual meetings and its co-founder, the architect Nestor Jeifetz, is a leading figure in the debate on low-cost housing provision. Jeifetz also founded the Movimiento de Ocupantes e Inquilinos (MOI-Movement of Squatters and Tenants) in 1998, an organisation with roots in the squatter movement of Buenos Aires, Argentina. MOI takes over unused buildings to act as temporary accommodation for co-operative members whilst their own homes are being built. These are realised through mutual aid contributions, constructed collectively and are self-managed. MOI's other role is to campaign for housing rights and it seeks to influence housing policies.

In Uruguay, housing co-operatives were established in the late 1960s as part of the National Housing Plan which provided the legal framework for the co-operative ownership of property and created a national fund to which every employee must contribute one percent of their pay with employers obliged to match. Shortly afterwards, in 1970, the Uruguayan Federation of Housing for Mutual-Support Cooperatives (FUCVAM) was established. It is a national umbrella organisation which grew out of an established labour movement and is now one of the largest and most organised social movements representing 300 separate housing co-operatives and 200 000 families. FUCVAM provides legal and accounting services, has a technical department, training centre, sports and youth facilities, as well as campaigning to lower the interest rates and increase the housing fund, changes that were enacted under the twelve year dictatorship of 1973-1985.

FUCVAM has thus defended co-operatives in Uruguay through difficult times, ensuring that the legal framework set up during the 1960s remains in place. They are now extending their model across South America, through supporting local struggles and offering their expertise to, for example, groups in Bolivia and Venezuela. It is also a member of Habitat International Coalition.

There are a whole host of similar organisations across Latin America, some who help organise and implement the actual construction and management, such as Centro Experimental de la Vivienda Economica in Córdoba, Argentina, Fedevivienda in Bogota, Colombia, and Centro de Asesoramiento y Estudios Educativos, Sociales y Urbanos in Montevideo, Uruguay. Others concentrate on training and political reform so that better housing policies are adopted, such as Red Nacional de Asentamientos Humanos in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Other Work

'SeLVIP', [accessed 20 April 2010].

'Movimiento de Ocupantes e Inquilinos (MOI)', [accessed 20 April 2010].

'Red Nacional de Asentamientos Humanos (Renaseh)', [accessed 22 April 2010].

'Federación Uruguaya de Cooperativas de Vivienda por Ayuda Mutua (FUCVAM)', [accessed 22 April 2010].

'Fedevivienda', [accessed 22 April 2010].

'Centro Experimental de la Vivienda Económica', [accessed 22 April 2010].

References About

Guillermo Font, 'A City Built by Us All/Haciendo la ciudad', 2001, [accessed 20 April 2010].

Michael Fox, 'Building Autonomy, One Co-op at a Time', Yes! Powerful Ideas, Practical Actions, 2007, [accessed 20 April 2010].

Mario Navarro, 'Housing Finance Policy in Chile: The Last 30 Years', Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2005, [accessed 20 April 2010].


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Related Organisations

  • Elemental
  • Estrategia
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Habitat International Coalition