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A basic standard of living

  1. 1. A Basic Standard of Living Everyone deserves as a minimum, a basic quality standard of living. My intention is to travel to major South American cities like Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Asuncion, Lima, Quito, and Caracas, if funding allows also parts of Central America. The purpose will be to research and propose alternative options for squatter settlements, specifically those within the city’s urban fabric where it is somewhat of a spectacle for tourists as well as to the local residents. These hindered governments are now gaining a foothold in the global economic development race from adolescence and economic crisis. If not monitored, the development of new infrastructures that may be implemented could neglect and bypass impoverished settlements of people. Now would be an ideal time for some of these cities to rectify some of their nation’s poverty issues which will ultimately lead to a better quality of life for all their residents within or around shanty towns. Buenos Aires alone has 120,000 people living in squatter settlements, locally called “Villa Miserias.” Currently there is little information that can be found online or in libraries on these deprived clusters of people. There are not enough technology resources for them to broadcast the information to a global audience. I have done much research on the topic of squatter settlements as it is a large issue affecting large populations of Latin America. This environment causes death in mass numbers from sanitation or merely minor flash floods caused by natural disasters like El Niño can catastrophically devastate the area. If more attention is not focused immediately on these communities, as the current trend shows, the poor are getting poorer, thus making it harder to redirect their path for a better quality of life. I have studied the risks involved in these types of places and am fully aware of cities that are too risky for me to conduct my research. Nevertheless, I will allocate local expertise to escort me into sites whenever necessary. I have communicated with Alfredo Brillembourg of Urban Think Tank in Caracas, Venezuela whose focus is primarily on such topics. I have also established contacts with La Universidad de Buenos Aires, Universidad de Chile’s Instituto de la Vivenda and Universidad Catolica de Chile’s Instituto de Estudios Urbanos; as well as some local architecture firms and NGOs like Sur Profesionales, in hopes of using high tech facilities and access to their bodies of knowledge to conduct my research. I am currently studying towards a master degree in Housing and Urbanization at the Graduate School of Design’s MDesS program. Thanks to the program, I have fresh knowledge of current city, state, and federal housing policies at the national and international level. The courses I have taken during my undergraduate studies in Environmental Design at the University of Colorado focused on self-sustaining buildings, energy efficient architecture, and usage of green materials. My work experience in design/build construction and property management will facilitate my topic of research. My military background will no doubt serve for several reasons, the most important being the ability to identify and avoid possible dangers to me and those around me. I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and speak fluent Spanish which will give me an edge in communication between government agencies and citizens. Finally, I have lived in
  2. 2. several cities and visited 22 countries. This gives me a well-rounded understanding of what to expect and be prepared for when traveling through different cultures, customs, and traditions. Being able to study first hand the specific scenarios and the bodies of laws governing housing, will allow me to uncover alternative options and create solutions for the Latin American people. The result could encompass a variety of possible solutions since there are a variety of tribulations to address and the need of each settlement is specifically prioritized, there are many options for me to be creative in improvising recommendations and redirect government rule to those that need it. First, I will compare these city’s housing policies with those of other countries in similar circumstances. To make my contribution unique to their own expertise, I can use United State’s policies as examples, but in no means mimic the system. I strongly believe that strategic planning has to be specific to a community’s culture, economy, and geography. Second, I will analyze methods to inform the public about available funding and financing opportunities. The people need to be aware of their rights and opportunities of rental and homeownership. This could be attained through an expanded public awareness and consumer education program that will hopefully serve as a vehicle for economic integration and poverty deconcentration. Next, I will investigate scheduling potable water trucks, biweekly waste management service, informing them about farming their own food, or simply provide them with my extensive construction experience to use inexpensive, recycled, or donated materials to build better and safer homes. Finally, if granted this grand opportunity, my main objective, will be to design and construct an innovative structure using thin fabric to provide a reasonably adequate shelter from the elements for an entire squatter settlement. A similar example of this would be Mario Schjethun’s large artistic canopy tents in Monterrey, Mexico, that provide shade while also being aesthetically pleasing. The funds and materials may come from companies who have excess material, or could use possible tax incentives. I should add that the cities I have researched have high literacy rates, thus the residents of the settlements may be quite capable of providing their own labor for such a task. A country’s economy is linked hand in hand with society as well as environment. If all goes as planed, it will allow me to take advantage of my background knowledge of environmental design to make it appealing for the largest industry in the world, tourism. The successfulness of my design and approach will be determined by the amount of media attention it attracts. Preliminary studies have shown me that many of these settlements occur on private property where the land owner collects small fees from the residents when they leave and enter the area thus the owner has an economic interest and with negotiation and using government subsidies as a bargaining tool, I may persuade the land owner to allow
  3. 3. construction of better accommodations for the tenants. The fact that I studied conflict negotiations at the Universidad de Vigo, Spain, with my ability to speak fluent Sp anish, allows me to work as a mediator between citizens and government. Before travel, I will conduct more demographic research and prioritize settlements based on those which I may have the most impact on. On return, I plan to monitor the socio/economic outcomes to highlight what was successful and what could be reevaluated. In conclusion, many of the key elements of this research plan underpin these common and interlinked objectives to raise the quality of life. Whether the result of my efforts will relocate people, provide access to essentials, or artistically manipulate the context of the site with modern appeal, it will help their society, their environment, and their economy, which are all inherently bound together in the context of improving quality of life. With this enlightening experience, I hope to gain knowledge on global housing policies for my future endeavors in international housing development. More importantly, when working in these regions, I will make a conscious effort to assist these communities in gaining the right that every human deserves for a basic standard of living.