How a Housing Project for Low Income Chileans is Failing

Former mayor of Las Condes municipality, Joaquin Lavin, with a model of his Rotonda Atenas building project.

HAVANA TIMES – It seemed like a novel initiative from former mayor Joaquin Lavin of Las Condes municipality, northeast of Santiago de Chile. The project was centered on greater social integration, but it has ultimately become a nightmare for many families. It promised that, through the construction of a building, historically marginalized social sectors could access decent and comfortable housing, but that was not the case.

I point this out based on what many residents have had to endure with multiple construction deficiencies in the Rotonda Atenas Building. These range from windows that don’t close, lifted floors, malfunctioning elevators, gas leaks, electrical connection failures, emergency doors that don’t work, overflowing sewage containers, and water leaks. With the current rains, these issues have worsened, increasing desperation.

The paradox of all this is that the Rotonda Atenas Building became Joaquin Lavin’s flagship project in 2018, as it showcased a right-wing mayor concerned about a deeply unequal and territorially segregated society and the need to provide a municipal solution for many residents of the community.

In this way, Lavin earned congratulations and recognition from many, and then-Minister of Housing under Sebastián Piñera’s government, Cristian Monckeberg, highlighted the mayor’s initiative as one that should be replicated throughout Chile as a housing and social housing policy.

It’s true that, although the project’s approval wasn’t without controversy at first, such as the protests from a group of area residents opposing the building’s construction, showing the worst face of classism and discrimination in the community, the project was very well-received by the major media outlets and various political sectors.

However, despite this media and political recognition for Joaquin Lavin, as time passed, his star proposal resulted in a massive delay before being inhabited (not until January of this year), and even the Comptroller found irregular payments in the construction, which put the role of the Las Condes Municipality in question.

Adding to the above, we are now witnessing the evident structural failures of the Rotonda Atenas Building. This only serves to show how a good initiative ended in a complete disaster for which no one takes responsibility, neither the construction company, nor the current mayor Daniela Peñaloza, nor Joaquin Lavin.

In other words, rather than social integration, what the Rotonda Atenas Building has generated is social denigration towards the residents who believed in this project and thought that the Las Condes Municipality would live up to its promises in 2018, being completely abandoned today.

Consequently, what happens in this building shows us how the right-wing in Chile has boasted about good management all these years, but in practice, it shows this: a project execution full of failures and delays, and multiple other cases of corruption, where municipal accountability and the proper use of public funds are completely absent.

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