We spoke with Soledad Núñez, Paraguay’s Minister for Housing within Paraguay’s National Secretariat for Housing, about future housing plans within the context of a rising middle class
Leading Edge (LE): What have SENAVITAT’s most significant achievements been under the leadership of Soledad Núñez?
Soledad Núñez (SN): In 2015, we achieved a large increase in the production goals that the institution attained. This was a very significant increase. We went from an average of 1,700 social housing units built during previous years to 10,095 housing units. This was a huge increase in our production goal, and it allowed us to build trust among citizens as well as among the private sector. The private sector has seen that when you associate yourself with social housing construction programs alongside the government, upon confirming that there is a solution and that the institution has become more agile, the relationship progressively becomes stronger, and channels of trust strengthen in tandem.
I attribute the achievement of this quantitative increase to three decisions that we made immediately upon assuming the management of SENAVITAT. The first was to improve substantially the work-monitoring processes. The second was to adopt the transparency processes that have been in place since the very first day that we assumed management. Last of all, we decided on a form of management focused on people, both internally — through human resources traning at the institution — as well as on a team level, in terms of people who want to push the institution in the same direction and give it the same meaning.
LE: What measures can SENAVITAT put into practice to mitigate extreme poverty?
SN: I’ll give you an example. We are working with a particular focus on the Los Bañados region, because we believe that the situation of housing scarcity is mainly seen in this region of the capital. It is a problem that has been around for decades, and we are facing it with concrete proposals as well as with a structural solution. In the entire region of La Chacarita, in which there are more than 24 neighbourhoods, we are working on landmark projects that are unprecedented on a national level.
In 2015, we went from an average of 1,700 social housing units built during previous years to 10,095 housing units
LE: Regarding infrastructure in particular, where are the bottlenecks in terms of the responsibilities of SENAVITAT?
SN: Today, Paraguay needs to focus on cities. Paraguay went through a late urbanisation process compared to the other Latin America and Caribbean countries. The fact that 60% of the population currently lives in cities, whereas the average across the rest of Latin America is 80%, translates into an opportunity for us. It allows us to take a look at the region and observe the negative effects that have been derived from its urbanisation processes, although this also engenders the responsibility to make adequate decisions now to be able to build sustainable cities. Today, we believe that the focus has to be on building cities with much more comprehensive solutions. Urban mobility policies, inter-connectivity, city access and exit points, land use, sanitation aspects… these are vital and are a huge investment opportunity.
LE: What are you doing at SENAVITAT to promote the real estate market?
SN: We have started a discussion panel both with public and private banking institutions as well as developers and the Ministry of Finance, to generate instruments which will allow investors to invest in housing for the middle classes, and thus ensure that buyers will have access to credit. This is a huge opportunity for Paraguay, which is currently opening its doors, and which will continue to do so for the next decade. We have a very large demand in these sectors, not just in Asunción and metropolitan areas, but in medium-sized cities and Ciudad del Este as well. That creates a very large investment opportunity.
The concept of mass-scale housing, as it is known in other countries in the region such as Mexico, Colombia, and Chile, (in which they undertake projects for one-thousand, two-thousand, and even up to five-thousand housing units) is something that has never before happened in Paraguay. Because of this, our San Francisco project in La Chacarita is going to be unprecedented at the national level, along with the 3,000 housing units that we are also developing in Mariano Roque Alonso for the middle-class income population segment. This is also an opportunity for foreign investment, as the public sector, as an institution, is going to make public land available, with infrastructure, on certain land plots or business units.