doi 10.4067/S0718-83582014000100002


A comparative analysis of the implementation of regulatory policies of informal settlements in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico1


María Mercedes Di Virgilio2, Tomás Alejandro Guevara3 , María Soledad Arqueros4

2 Argentina. Sociologist, PhD in Social Sciences, University of Buenos Aires.Assistant researcher at CONICET and the Gino Germani Institute, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Buenos Aires.

3 Argentina. Sociologist, MA in Social Policies, PhD in Social Sciences, University of Buenos Aires. Postdoctoral fellow at the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research, Department of Economic and Administrative Sciences, Andean Campus, University of Rio Negro.

4 Argentina. Sociologist, University of Buenos Aires.Doctoral candidate in Social Sciences, University of Buenos Aires. Doctoral fellow at CONICET, Gino Germani Research Institute, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Buenos Aires.


This paper addresses the different land-title and urban regulatory policies implemented in Latin America over the last decades, with a focus on the comparative experience of three countries of the region: Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. To this end, this contribution offers a brief overview of the development of informal habitat and the housing situation of the aforementioned countries. Then, current urban regulations as well as federal land-title and urban regulatory policies and the different entities involved in such a process are analyzed. Finally, this paper provides a comparison of the different interjurisdictional management and linking models of each country. The analysis offered in this research uses official statistics and secondary data on housing conditions, urban regulations and programs currently in force. Although sharing the same federal political organization, the comparative analysis shows considerable differences among the three studied countries regarding institutional structure and the relationship with their respective current property regimes.




In general terms, it can be said that a large proportion of the population living in Latin American cities find solutions to their housing needs in mechanisms other than those provided bythe formal housing market. However, although the State has appealed to the construction of social housing as a strategy to expand the access to housing, it has failed to respond to the housing needs of low-income people. In that way, large segments of the population have been forced to develop their own access strategies to land and housing, thus giving rise to informal settlements. In general, the resulting neighborhoods are characterized by poor housing conditions. Against this backdrop, the State implemented land-title and urban regulatory policies, in order to improve the housing conditions of these neighborhoods and integrate their residents into the property regime. The aim of this paper is to look into the design and implementation as well as into the scope and limitations of these regulatory policies over the last decades in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. The choice of countries is related to the shared research track among researchers of these countries in the framework of the Latin American Housing Network. The analysis period is related, in the first place, to the emergence of this type of policies in the region over the period spanning 1960-1970 and, in the second place, to their dissemination and expansion from 1990 onwards.

In the first part of this research, the development of informal habitat in the region is conceptually determined by way of the specification of its characteristics. Subsequently, the housing situation in these three selectedcountries is briefly detailed with a focus on the extension of informal habitat typologies. Then, this paper analyzes the regulatory policies implemented in these countries and the instruments used in such a process. Finally, this contribution provides some comparisons derived from the analysis of management models and interjurisdictional linking methods.


Informal Habitat and Housing Conditions in Latin America

As stated in the introduction, a large proportion of the Latin American population find a solution to their needs outside the formal housing market. However, this does not mean that they are excluded from the dynamics of the capitalist production of habitat, but rather they move around the circuits of informal habitat.

Assuming the existence of circuits of informal habitat does not imply the adherence to a dualist taxonomy about a confrontation between formal and informal markets. On the contrary, it means that “informality is a constituent of the productive and territorial structure of the city that reveals the segmented nature of a unique job and land market which, in turn, reflects the heterogeneity of the system”5. In this sense, there are couplings and interrelations between informal and formal sectors such as the provision of supplies and resources, paid employment, etc.

In general terms, habitat production processes constitute a varied universe of social practices of production and reproduction of the essential social conditions to live in the city. Such a universe includes disparate practices such as the construction of dwellings through building firms or self-help construction processes. However, it is in our interest to clarify the definition of informal habitat.

The concept of informal habitat refers either to land and/or housing tenure (informal land-title) or the urban-environmental conditions for habitat development (urban informality)6. From this perspective, informality emerges when tenure or urban conditions do not adjust to the rules governing the access and occupation of land and housing. This leads us back to the legal provisions that regulate social relationships, the latter being territorially expressed in residential localization patterns and the predominant housing situation of different social segments. In this manner, informality is defined by “the way the relationship with the land and housing markets, as well as with the property system, is solved”7.

The poor or weak nature of the living conditions of the population involved should not be related to the notion of informal habitat, but rather should refer to the relationship between these conditions and the prevailing legal provisions at a specific period of time. For this reason, informality is inseparable from the regulatory intervention of the State, the latter fixing the boundaries between informality and formality. Such a limit varies over time and denotes, as in the case of all public policies, the correlation of forces among the different actors involved8. The situation of tenure reflects the relationship between certain habitat production processes with current urban regulations at a specific moment. In this sense, urban informality is “also mediated by political and social factors and political decisions that may guide or facilitate full urban insertion processes or reproduce fragmented and fragmentary logics”9

Consequently, the notion of informal habitat should not be confused with that of formal habitat, as they are approached from different analytical perspectives. In this case, while the first of these notions refers to legal provisions prevailing at a specific moment in time, the second concept makes reference to the different inhabiting manifestations of low-income segments within the region, that is to say, the relationship between ways of inhabiting and the social structure.

It is important, then, not to juxtapose these two notions because it would be a mistake to label all popular habitat processes as informal. In the same vein, labeling all informal habitat processes as popular would be a mistake as well. There are also numerous variables in which informality serves the interest of well-off social groups that exceed the use and occupation of common spaces as in the case of Argentina, where gated communities concentrate mid-high and high segments.

Finally, according to the conceptualization presented in this section, the concept of informality underlines the inequitable access to the right to the city10.In this sense, land policies grant access to land and housing to families who can afford to pay for them.This does not only affect the chances to purchase a home, but also hinders the opportunities related to the localization of housing. Thus, families inhabit and experience the city in an unequal fashion, which has a negative effect on their respective opportunities for social reproduction.


The Housing Situation in the Three Selected Countries

Since the first decades of the XX century, the three selected countries experienced rapidurban development processes mainly linked to the restructuration of rural economies through the modernization of agriculture and the development of import-substitution methods.As with the majority of Latin American countries, these three states concentrate most of their population in a few metropolises. In this sense, Argentina presents the most extreme case, with Buenos Aires far exceeding the population of Rosario, the second largest city within the urban system. Both cities concentrate almost 40 percent of the total population. Then, to a lesser degree, the case of Mexico shows that the Federal District (the most populated city of the region, with more than 20 million inhabitants) and Guadalajara account for 22 percent of the total population. As for Brazil, it is worth noting that its balanced urban system includes at least two large metropolises (megalopolises): São Paulo, with 19.5 million inhabitants and Rio de Janeiro, with 12 million inhabitants (both accounting for 16.6 percent of the total population) and other large cities. As the literature states, the gap between an incomplete and insufficient industrialization and a rapid urban development process is one of the key factors behind the emergence of urban informality and urban poverty. Such a situation can be particularly observed in the largest metropolises of the region and is related to the dependent nature of Latin American economies11.

Within this framework of extended urban informality, Argentina is one of the few countries that offered a sub-market for the provision of urban land to low-income groups (the so-called loteos populares12); such a market owed its existence to weak urban regulations in terms of subdivision and use of land. These regulations allowed the subdivision of land into individual plots, a process in which developers disregarded the use of infrastructure andamenities, thus reducing considerably the cost of land. This policy expanded the access of middle- and mid-low income segments of the population to urban land. Likewise, it was a source of great benefits for developers who took advantage of the incorporation of these plots into the urban fabric and the State provision of infrastructure and amenities to multiply the value of land13. A good deal of the access to urban land over the 1940-1970 period in the main urban centers of Argentina was carried out by way of loteos populares, a procedure that allowed the transfer of land withoutany type of service in return of monthly payments deducted from the average wage of salaried workers, within a full employment context. However, the loteos populares coexisted with non-regulated informal habitat modalities such as tenancy, shanty towns, settlements, illegal occupation of property, etc.

In Brazil, the lack of a regulated land sub-market gave rise to informality at an early stage; the clearest example being the favelas that extend over most of Brazilian urban centers. In many cases, these settlements are the result of the informal occupation of land legally regarded as non-developable reserves due to environmental or topological reasons; this is the case of the morrosand the settlements built over these natural structures, which exceed the maximum slope for construction and generate conflicts as the result of landslides and land slippages.

The case of Mexico presents noteworthy specificities as it is preceded by the experience of the Land Reform, an initiative promoted within the context of the Mexican Revolution during the first half of the XX century. Here, informality was basically linked to the restrictions on the incorporation of ejido or communal lands into the urban development and the actions of illegal developers who operated outside the law. As decades went by, these ejido and communal lands resulting from such a reform were informally developed on a massive scale either by occupation or illegal/informal division of land, thus giving rise to the colonias. These colonias are the main recipients of these regulatory processes.

There is a great difficulty inquantifying the population living in informality and the population served by regulatory policies14. In this sense, it is even harder to suggest a comparative quantification among different countries due to the heterogeneity of indicators. However, despite the difficulty of such an exercise, this paper presents an initial approach to this issue based oninformation made available from the statistical offices of the three selected countries.

An indicator that may provide qualitative data about the extension of informality in these countries is the situation of housing tenure collected from population and housing censuses. In this way, the first relevant detail is that the Mexican office does not provide such information, even when taking into account that the dispute over the tenure of ejido and/or communal and urban lands is one of the main factors for the development of urban informality in the country.This indicator also shows that informality rises to 14.1 percent15 and 9.9 percent16 in Argentina and Brazil, respectively. Likewise, this factor allows an approximation to the universe that could potentially be subject to land-title regulatory policies in any of the three selected countries as it reveals the tenure condition of housing and land of registered households, thus becoming one of the key indicators for the identification of urban land-title informality. However, this indicator does not provide any type of information regarding the urban and environmental conditions of dwellings.

Therefore, urban and environmental regulatory needs can be approached through the use of three indicatorspreviously selected for this purpose: access to drinking water, access to sewage systems and availability of flush toilets. The first two indicators provide approaches to the existence of basic infrastructure networks in dwellings, which is one of the essential needs for the consolidation of informal neighborhoods. The third indicator deals with the investment ability and improvement of households in terms of infrastructure and sanitary equipment.

The three selected countries show similar high levels of access to drinking water. However, there are considerable differences in the access to sewage systems: Mexico, 88.8 percent17, Argentina, 77.8 percent and Brazil, with a surprisingly low value (55 percent). The availability of flush toilets is also led by Mexico, with very high availability levels (93.9 percent), followed by Argentina (87.3 percent) and Brazil, with very low availability levels (55.4 percent).

The other indicator used to addressurban and environmental informality is related to the quality of construction materials, which reveal the income level, investment ability and consolidation level of informal neighborhoods. As for this factor, it is difficult to make comparisons between countries since Mexico does not have or does not provide a synthetic indicator and offers separated data regarding the main materials used in floors, walls and ceiling and Brazil does not provide or does not reveal any type of information concerning the quality of construction materials. However, Argentina does provide a synthetic indicator called CALMAT (quality of materials); it is worth noting that the observed level of this indicator is rather high, with 38.4 percent of dwellings constructed of poor materials.

Though preliminary, such a diagnosis allows a glimpse of the high percentage of the population and dwellings involved in the issue of informal habitat that may be recipient of land-title and urban regulatory policies.

The following sections of this research analyze the current urban regulations of each country in relation to the regularization of urban informality and offer details about the main local entities and programs involved.


Regulatory policies

There are three types of regulatory policies: i) those aimed at stabilizing the land-title situation; ii) those aimed at stabilizing the urban-environmental situation and iii) those integral policies aimed at linking type i) and ii) policies18, the latter being the least used. In general terms, these regulatory initiatives have been implemented independently, the most demanded being type i) policies. The popularity of this type of initiative is based on its low cost, greater scope in political terms and support provided by international organizations, which recognize its alleged multiplier effects.

These regulatory policies emerged during the 1960s, particularly in countries like Peru and Mexico, where tough regulatory requirements and the lack of mechanisms for land access favored the spread of informality at a large scale, reaching more than half of the population of some cities.

Although pre-existent, these initiatives were largely promoted by international credit agencies during the 1990s. Influenced by the thesis of Hernando de Soto19, such entities considered that land-title regularization would have a positive impact on the life conditions of the population through the promotion of inclusivity and integration into labor and educational spheres, among others.However, in some cases, these policies were redefined by the organizations of neighborhoods that promoted housing self-management initiatives. Despite this, some of these processes have not met with success and have also failed to cause the expected social and economic changes. Occasionally, new informality processes emerged as the result of succession, subdivision and informal sale and/or rent issues right after a regulatory process was over; such a situation demystifies some of the potential positive effects of regulatory policies.

Within the context of the improvement of these initiatives over the 1990s20, State reforms and economic restructuration had a great impact on the operation of the urban land market, which led to radical changes in the implemented regulatory policies. Since then, the housing policy paradigm moved to traditional housing policies, then to the provision of serviced plots and finally, thanks to the support of the Inter-American Bank and the World Bank, to the legalization and improvement of neighborhoods. It is worth pointing out that land-title regulatory policies operate more freely in public lands rather than in private lands; this is because, within a private context, the State has to expropriate and then become a (non-disinterested) mediator in the case of a negotiation.

Likewise, the 1996 Habitat II Conference should be regarded as historical since this convention defined secure tenure as one of the key goals of governments, thus providing a new boost to this type of operation.

In this sense, the three selected countries, though sharing the same federal system as well as traditions and sources of law, have different regulatory frameworks regarding housing issues.

Article 17 of the Argentinean Constitution declares the inviolability of private property. On the other hand, article 14 bis declares the right to decent housing and article 41 declares the right to a healthy environment. This conjunction of rights, which are in constant conflict with reality, should be resolved politically by the pertinent authorities (legislative and executive) or, ultimately, by the justice departmentwithin a context marked by high social tensions. In other national constitutions, even in some provincial constitutions of Argentina, the inclusion of the legal principle of the social function of property is a strong argument in favor of the primacy of the social interest over the individual proprietary interest that may contribute to resolve this conflict of rights. The Civil Code is the basic law that regulates everything related to land and housing property; however, such a regulation is framed within the constitutional principles of property inviolability, thus adopting a property bias that has effects on verdicts and jurisprudence. This situation leads to obstacles in terms of land-title regularization since the unlimited right to property tends to win out over other considerations, emerging as the social function of property.

In this sense, there is a conspicuous lack of a univocal regulatory policy at national level. The few attempts to link integral and universal policies have met with nothing but failure as specific regulatory verdicts are used for each case, thus segmenting the provision of solutions and violating the principle of equity under the law. Such a situation, instead of recognizing the existence of a struggle between two legit rights that should be addressed by the proper channels partly expresses a certain consensus within the political system on not questioning ownership relations and the access to land and housing; this puts private property over the social, economic and cultural rights of low-income families.

Within the framework of the State reform and the implementation of neoliberal measures, different regulations aimed at enabling the transfer and regularization of land in popular areas were adopted:

The Brazilian Constitution of 1988 incorporated the social function of property in articles 5, 170 and 182, the latter detailing urban property and establishing restrictions on property according to the planning requirements of the city. Article 183 establishes that any person who does not have another property and peacefully and without opposition occupies a non-public plot measuring up to 250 square meters for a period of five years has the right to ask the transfer of his property by way of acquisitive prescription. Though underused, this legal instrument has a great potential when it comes to facilitate land-title regulation.

The constitutional reform of 1988 granted more participation and decision-making power to the municipalities in the formulation of urban policies and therefore most of the proposed initiatives occur at that level; such a fact complicates comparisons among the three analyzed countries. Municipalities have the task of formulating Master Plans, the latter being some of the most important urban management instruments. The Federal Union is in charge of elaborating, through federal laws, the main regulations regarding urban policies.

The Brazilian case, apart from offering regulatory experiences, owes its development to a strong social movement: the National Movement for Urban Reform. Such a movement was born in January, 1985 and institutionalized as the National Forum on Urban Reform in 1987 and was some of the first promoters of the 1988 constitutional reform.

One of the main laws adopted in the new constitution was the Federal Act n° 10257 entitled Statute of the City;this ordinance regulates articles 182 and 183. This long-delayed and complex law was enacted in 2001, thirteen years after the reform to the Magna Carta. Given the organization of the Brazilian State, this act sets only a series of principles and instruments which are used as the general framework of municipal urban policies.

Likewise, these policies also incorporate an already existing instrument, the Special Zones of Social Interest created by the Municipality of Recife In 1987. Such a form facilitates the regularization of informal settlements and enables the design of areas for popular occupation through the setting of differentiated urban indicators. However, this instrument does not modify the situation of tenure or the perception of secure tenure, but only eliminates the risk of eviction21. It can even cause the displacement of vulnerable people within informal settlements.

Over the last years, the housing policy of the Labor Party has adopted a private approach, with an increasing involvement of private capital, building firms and urban developers; this situation is different from that of the early days of the party, in which self-management and social production of habitat were the focus of discussions22. In this sense, the initiatives promoted by the party were similar to that of Chilean policies on housing subsidies. The culmination point of this process took place in 2009 with the enactment of Federal Act n°11977, which was intended to regulate the My House, My Life Program. Despite dealing essentially with the financing of new housing, this law contains a specific chapter about the real property regulation in informal settlements, thus becoming a relevant piece of information or the purpose of this research. This act includes legal (deeds), urban and environmental regularization. Likewise, it also sets the criteria used to determine if an informal settlement is regularized in terms of property: demographic density over 50 inhabitants per hectare and street paving; and in terms of at least two of the following infrastructure services: rainwater drainage, sewer system, drinking water, electricity or street cleaning. Additionally, regularization could be either individual or collective, the latter including cooperatives, associations, foundations, social organizations, etc.

Since 1917, the Constitution of Mexico includes restrictions on private property to ensure their proper operation and social benefits. In fact, article 27 sets out that lands are originally property of the Nation, which has the right to transfer them to private parties, thus constituting private property. However, the State holds the right to impose on private property the modalities emanated from the public interest and regulate, for social well-being, the use of the natural elements that may be appropriated (such as land) and from which public interest and social well-being that should govern urban planning derive. Likewise, article 4 declares the right to a proper environment and to decent and adequate housing. This constitutional reform inherited the complex Mexican legal system of land that recognizes the similarly treated ejido and communal lands as rural lands intended for collective ownership and use.

In the same vein, Mexico began the implementation of regulatory policies during the 1970, which, along with that of Peru, are among the oldest of the region.However, the most dynamic phase of this process took place during the 1990s. Today, most of regulatory policies are developed at federal level and focus more on the massive provision of title deeds than on the urban regularization of settlements. The General Act on Human Settlements of 1976 marked a turning point for the urban regulation of Mexico23. Such a law frames these regulations in a general process of policy generation and also relates them to the urban conflicts that emerge back in the 1960s, especially in the Federal District. These disputes were related to an uncontrolled urban growth that included high levels of informality. Likewise, article 23 of the General Act on Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection, enacted in 1988, ensured the environmental regulation of human settlements.

Most of urban informality situations are linked to ejido or communal lands. It is estimated that 66 percent of lands surrounding cities are communal lands. Before the constitutional reform of 1992, all rural areas could not freely dispose of their lands and the property rights of ownership on their lands were regarded as inalienable, unattachable and non-lapsable. This resulted in the emergence of a market that created settlements in highly vulnerable areas. In many cases, the occupants of these lands ended up paying twice as much for their lands: one payment to the ejido and the other payment to the Federal Government to expropriate the ejido.

In 1992, after the last constitutional reform, the Rural Act was enacted, establishing the ownership of ejido lands. Such a law regulates the destination, use, usufruct and the conditions for the assignment or transfer of ejidos, especially when they are located in urban areas of growing population centers. This act is vital for the regularization of settlements established in ejidos as it enables the expropriation of lands and sets the mechanisms for the incorporation of ejidos into the urban development, among other reasons for the regularization of urban and rural land tenure.


Main Land-Title and Urban Regulatory Agencies and Programs

Agencies and programs in Argentina

There are three main agencies at national level in charge of implementing regulatory policies:

The first of these agencies is the Under-Secretariat for Urban Development and Housing, which is in charge of the implementation of federal programs on housing. Only a few of these programs address the land-title and urban regularization of informal settlements. Most of the resources allocated to this agency are intended for the construction of new dwellings.

The second agency is the National Commission on Public Lands. This body mostly deals with the collective transfer of land to social organizations constituted by the occupants themselves, thus bypassing requirements that may delay such an operation (subdivisions, legal arrangements, and urban projects). This program is intended to assist low-income families who live pacifically in public lands that may eventually have access to a unique and permanent housing. The symbolic price is US$ 2 per square meter. As of 2004, 384 lands within neighborhoods of 105 municipalities have been transferred, involving 381,350 beneficiaries.

The third agency is the National Commission on Lands for Social Habitat (Decree n° 158/06), which replaced the aforementioned agency. The goal of this commission is to assist, promote and facilitate the access processes to individual and/or collective lands led by communities and, in coordination with the different levels of State, consolidate and improve the housing quality of urban and rural dwellers. This agency also funds infrastructure works and/or services, provides basic amenities and housing assistance to specific communities and contributes to the institutional strength of cooperatives and organizations.

One of the main instruments for land-title regularization applied in Argentina, particularly in the Buenos Aires Province, was the previously mentioned Act n°24374; however, this law was applied through a specific agreement with the Notary Public Association of the Buenos Aires Province; this process gave them the name of casas de tierras, in which the implemented tenure procedures were carried out on a decentralized basis.


Agencies and Programs in Brazil

At federal level, the main agency on this matter is the Ministry of Cities. This is one of the few countries in the world to have a ministerial body in charge of urban issues. This Ministry has four National Secretariats: Housing, Health, Urban Programs and Transport and Mobility; the former channeling most of regulatory programs. Some of the main programs implemented by the Housing Secretariat are listed as follows:

Likewise, there are some experiences implemented at state and municipal levels, chief among which is the Program for the Urban Development of Popular Settlements in Rio de Janeiro, also known as Favela Bairro. Despite not being national in scope, this initiative is listed as one of the most important programs; it is also funded by the IADB and serves as a model for the elaboration of other programs throughout the region.


Agencies and Programs in Mexico

The main agency related to regulatory policies within the Federal Government of the United States of Mexico is the Secretariat for Social Development (SEDESOL). This entity includes a series of under-secretariats in charge of implementing infrastructure and social housing programs, as well as the provision of amenities, in popular neighborhoods. In other words, they deal with the urban and environmental regulation of these areas.

As explained before, the informal urban development of ejido or communal lands is one of the sources of urban informality in Mexico. In 1973, the Federal Government created the Committee on Land Tenure Regularization (CORETT), an entity that focuses on the land-title regularization of informal settlements by way of expropriation, transfer and massive titling of lands. As of today, this body has regulated more than 2.5 million plots and accounts for more than one million titling processes currently under way24. Most of regularizations involve ejido and communal lands but there are also some cases in which private lands come onto the scene. Likewise, this entity promotes the expropriation of unnecessary ejido lands to facilitate their incorporation into the urban development.

Similarly, the Certification Program of Ejido Rights and Titling of Urban Plots (PROCEDE), implemented in 1993, provides the dwellers of ejido lands with legal security of tenure. This program covers 29,951 ejido lands and rural communities that bring together more than 3.5 million rights holders of communal lands and local community members, 4.6 million agricultural fields and 4.3 million urban lands.



Firstly, there is a need to reflect on the role of national governments in the elaboration and implementation of urban policies and their relation with other governmental levels. In this sense, despite being three countries organized as federal States, the functions carried out by their respective federal, state and municipal governments differ to a great extent. In Brazil, the reform of 1988 focused on the role of local governments, providing them with a great of autonomy. In this sense, municipalities have a strong capacity to generate their own resources: they are authorized to create taxes, fees, rights or other type of charges. However, the Federal State also played an important role in the supervision and regulation of urban policies with the enactment of the Statute of the City in 2001 and the creation of the Ministry of Cities.

On the other hand, despite encouraging a decentralization process during the 1990s, the urban policies promoted by Argentina failed to achieve such a goal. In formal terms, Argentinian municipalities have the ability to conduct territorial planning; however, provincial and national governments provide them with limited financial autonomy. Within this framework, the National Government has a dominant funding role, generating a certain gap between resource allocation and legal powers that requires high levels of political mediation. Likewise, there is a high dependency on the federal tax revenue-sharing –governed by a law dating back to 1988- and, more recently, on the transfer of off-budget surplus made by the central state. This is why political guidelines among the different governmental levels are essential to explain the municipal capacity to elaborate and implement public policies.

In the case of Mexico, whichsits between the two aforementioned examples, many of the functions related to urban dynamics are dominated by the Federation (controlling the main policies linked to urban and environmental regulation such as the SEDESOL and the CORETT). However, over the last years, States have gained a great deal of autonomy.

In the second place, it is worth pointing out the relationship between the regulatory public policies and the property regime of land. In this way, the most remarkable fact of the Mexican case is the conflict between urban and rural lands, especially the ejido or communal lands. There has been little progress as far as the regularization of colonies or informal settlements in private lands is concerned, which implies a prevailing bias in local regulatory policies. The implementation of the Pierri Act facilitated the limited transfer of lands to their dwellers, which demonstrates the progress made on the regularization of private lands. Furthermore, despite being unusual, it is possible to find specific and relevant cases of expropriation of private lands. In general, regularization showed more progress on State-owned lands as they were a collateral effect of the State reform carried out by neoliberal governments. Again, in the case of Brazil, the constitutional reform, the Statute of the City and the Ministry of Cities are measures framed within the development of the dynamic Movement for Urban Reform, which had as some of its goals the need to achieve the social function of property and the right to the city for all. Despite some conflicts and contradictions, this situation generated an environment conducive to address the constraints to the right to property in its absolute liberal conception, thus generating mechanisms intended to impose or condition the way it operates in favor of the general interests of society, which included equitable and democratic urban development.



1 This paper was elaborated within the framework of the research project “The Rehabilitation of Consolidated Irregular Settlements in Latin American Cities: Towards a ‘Third Generation’ of Public Policy Analysis and Development” (2009-2012). Latin American Housing Network Project. The University of Texas at Austin and the Urban Studies Area at the Gino Germani Research Center, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Buenos Aires. Director-general of the project: Peter Ward, PhD; director of the Argentinian phase of the project: Mercedes di Virgilio, PhD.
5 Herzer, Di Virgilio, Rodríguez and Redondo, 2008.
6 Di Virgilio, Arqueros and Guevara, 2001.
7 Herzer, Di Virgilio, Rodríguez and Redondo, 2008, p. 176,
8 Oszlak, 1991.
9 Herzer, Di Virgilio, Rodríguez and Redondo, 2008, p. 184.
10 Lefebvre, 1969.
11 Vapñarsky and Gorojosky, 1996.
12 Land sub-divisions providing small, affordable plots in settlements lacking basic infrastructure.
13 Clichevsky, 1975.
14 Clichevsky, 2006a.
15 2010 Census. National Institute of Statistics and Census.
16 2010 Census. Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.
17 2010 Census, National Institute of Statistics and Geography.
18 Clichevsky, 2003.
19 De Soto, Ghersi y Ghibellini, 1986.
20 Clichevsky, 2006b.
21 Souza y Zetter, 2004.
22 Arantes, 2011.
23 Ovilla Mandujano, 1984.
24 Azuela, 2002.


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Received: 11.04.2013
Accepted: 17.01.2014