1993 volume 25(5) pages 653 – 676

Cite as:
Kiak T, 1993, "Contextualizing state housing programs in Latin America: evidence from leading housing agencies in Brazil, Ecuador, and Jamaica" Environment and Planning A 25(5) 653 – 676

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Contextualizing state housing programs in Latin America: evidence from leading housing agencies in Brazil, Ecuador, and Jamaica

T Kiak

Received 21 May 1992; in revised form 29 September 1992

Abstract. The policy literature offers many valid criticisms of government housing programs, but does not adequately trace housing-agency failures to their causes in the broader political and economic contexts of peripheral capitalist countries. The literature especially lacks an understanding of the role of interests within the state which benefit from housing programs in their current distorted form. In response to these analytical shortcomings, the author of this paper adapts a geographically hierarchical and comparative framework from locality studies that is capable of revealing both structural commonalities and contextual particularities of housing-agency behavior. The research is an examination and comparison of the performance of the major housing agencies in Brazil, Ecuador, and Jamaica. The diversity of economic resources and political regimes in these countries during the last three decades provides a spectrum of regional experiences. The investigation unfolds with the setting of the context of dependent capitalism, without which it is not possible to understand either the prominence or the incapacity of Latin American housing agencies. Next, the research adopts an historical vantage point to reveal key actors and events in housing-agency institutionalization. Having set the structural and historical contexts, the author then examines motives related to the state and its agents that help to explain why working-class housing programs have become self-centered patronage bureaucracies, to the neglect of their socially progressive goals. The author then explains how housing agencies have primarily used rhetoric, plans, and images, not material investment, to legitimize themselves to the disenfranchised working class. The final section synthesizes the paper's main points thereby establishing a political economic context for understanding Latin American housing programs.

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