Housing Crisis Grows, According to Recent Report

The housing crisis has worsened after the social uprising and coronavirus pandemic, pushing many families to the streets.

SANTIAGO – A recent report shows that slums (campamentos) have increased by 20 percent between 2019 and 2021. The social uprising in 2019 and the coronavirus pandemic had a considerable impact on income, forcing poorer families to the streets.

The estallido social in October 2019 had serious financial consequences for many families, and the subsequent Covid-19 pandemic has only made things worse. The state’s failure to provide subsidized (public) housing to those in need had led to more desperate measures. Nonprofit TECHO Chile and Fundación Vivienda’s latest survey shows that 81,643 families across the country live in campamentos (shanty towns) – a 74 percent increase since 2019. Likewise, the number of campamentos increased by 20 percent, from 802 to 969 in 2021.

The housing crisis affects all regions, but La Araucanía, Arica and Parinacota, Valparaíso, and the Metropolitan regions saw the biggest increase in displaced families. The study says that “the problem can be attributed to the events that happened between the two studies, which had a significant impact on the families’ incomes. Even though the financial strain involved in accessing housing, whether it’s renting or buying, is something that has been observed for a while as a consequence of the sustained increase in the cost of living.”

TECHO's figures for the number of slums and their population across the country.
TECHO’s figures for the number of slums and their population across the country.

Shanty towns lack any kind of access to water and electricity. The report shows that 93 percent of people have irregular access to drinkable water or no access at all; 89 percent have irregular access to a toilet/shower or have no access at all; and 60 percent have access to electricity through illegal connections.

Migrant Families

A survey by the government’s Housing and Urbanization Ministry in 2019 showed that 30.3 percent of families in campamentos were headed by an immigrant. TECHO’s 2020 report showed a 0.3 percent increase, with nearly 25,000 migrant families living in slums. Nonetheless, Chilean and immigrant residents grew equally in this period.

In the Antofagasta and Metropolitan regions, migrant families account for more than half of the total population in these settlements.

Lack of a Housing Policy

TECHO’s Executive Director Sebastián Bowen said the housing crisis has a much deeper root: a public housing deficit. “The families that we surveyed are a clear sign of home exclusion, but under the surface there is an invisible problem: overcrowding, lodging at relatives’ homes, abusive rental leases, housing deprivation, and the housing shortage that affects over 500,000 families.”

Bowen suggests that the problem isn’t solved by evicting people from illegal slums but by implementing long-term solutions that stop them from sprouting again.

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