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News Article

Public Policy Priorities for Advancement towards Sustainability

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 12:46

Enrique González Tiburcio, Undersecretary of Territorial Planning, eloquently opened 2016’s Urban Sustainability Summit with a presentation on Public Policy Priorities for Mexico’s Advancement towards Urban Sustainability. He began by welcoming all the attendees to the first urban sustainability event at the Sheraton Hotel in Mexico City, indicating the importance of the occasion to Mexico, and beginning to outline the objectives the authorities are committed to meet by 2020.

Mexico has seen disorganized expansion, especially in the capital city, due to rapid population growth. Expansion without control leads to lacking infrastructure, inadequate housing, insufficient mobility, and inequality in land distribution. González stated that 52.8% of land in Mexico is socially owned, 43.5% is privately owned, and 3.7% is federal property. In recent years, reorganizing land distribution has become more complicated. Therefore, laws to help mobility and housing are being developed.

One of the biggest challenges for urban planning, is the poverty that affects 41.7% of the country’s population. This has led to many capital city dwellers moving to locations not considered apt for housing. González makes a distinction between urban and rural poverty, as those living below the poverty line in built-up areas tend to lack access to food, among other amenities that are less abundant in cities with highly dense populations. He also compared how people used to change jobs no more than three or four times in their lifetime, whereas today, many change 15 or even 18 times throughout their career. This means that renting becomes more popular, as people move closer to their work. González explains that 8.2 million people live in a different municipality to that of their job, and while the majority commute between 16 and 30 minutes, 25% of the population spend more than an hour travelling to work. These commutes are largely in public transport or taxi, and such a large segment of the workforce using public transport merits a solid mobility program.

Within the 59 metropolitan zones, nine were strategically planned in 2015. González indicated that 60% of the 72.82 million Mexicans live in large cities, but that the conformation of the workforce and their living conditions are not planned, and tend to be disperse. However, several organizations are responsible for coordinating this planning and mobility, making it difficult to make decisions. The Secretariat of Urban and Rural Planning works to promote structured building and efficient mobility, which must take potential risk zones into account when electing land use. The law, government, and relevant authorities must contribute to the target of achieving significant nationwide improvements by 2030. Balancing land use has been complicated, due to changes in government. Continuity in grants, sanctions, and financial aid such as tax breaks is vital for the federal government to achieve its objectives. Moreover, said urban planning must respect natural resources and protected areas.

The Ministry of Finance funds metropolitan zones, and delegates this fund to each location fairly. González explains that the plan to harmonize cities, not only housing, but all the supporting infrastructure and services, is included within the objectives of the Secretariat of Urban, Rural and Agricultural Development (SEDATU) for the period of 2016 to 2018. This strategy involves sustainable growth, and will require investments from all parts of the economy, but will also generate employment in construction and all the peripheral suppliers in the country’s chain.

The key axels to SEDATU’s plan include dignified housing, land use, and sustainable mobility, all of which will be key topics at today’s event and the panels’ discussions. Mexico is the first country to develop a sustainable policy based on the NAMA Registry’s guidelines. The technological transition must happen in urban spaces, including eco-technologies, states González, and must be accessible to the public. The Secretariat must aim at creating sustainable, safe, and functional cities.