Latin America and the Caribbean Housing and Habitat South-South Knowledge Exchange

Key Contact
Giuliana de Mendiola Ramirez
Start Date
End Date
Funding Amount
$ 70,000


There are serious constraints to guaranteeing adequate housing in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. The housing shortage problem is a result of (i) historically insufficient stock of available houses for the population - i.e. quantitative housing deficit; (ii) new demand (e.g. household formation); and (iii) inadequate condition of existing units, in terms of space, construction materials and access to public services – i.e. qualitative housing deficit. Many countries in LAC have focused on addressing the quantitative housing shortage, which has resulted in some progress. However, the record on reducing qualitative shortages has been less noteworthy. As a result, a significant part of the population continues to live in socially and spatially segregated areas with inadequate access to basic services, overcrowding, insecure tenure, food insecurity, poor health, unemployment, and poor-quality housing, often located in hazardous locations. All this makes the poor highly vulnerable to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change, as well as COVID-19 and other pandemics.

The LAC Housing & Habitat South-South knowledge exchange sought to contribute to the design of projects and public policies that aim to improve the access of families to adequate, affordable, safe and resilient housing and land options that improve their well-being, prosperity and economic opportunities. Furthermore, the program sought to strengthen our sector to continue advancing towards public housing policies with greater impact and more sustainable housing projects and urban transformation processes.


Multiple governments in the region have successfully implemented pioneering urban upgrading initiatives and supply-and-demand-driven housing policies and programs. These efforts have provided valuable experience and insights that can greatly benefit other countries in the region facing housing challenges. In this regard, the South-South knowledge exchange strived to facilitate the sharing of experiences among national and subnational governments in the LAC region. The exchange aimed to strengthen the institutional capacity of the housing sector, address both qualitative and quantitative housing deficits, and improve urban resilience. By fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing, the exchange sought to empower governments to design and implement effective housing policies and programs that address their unique contexts and challenges.


Though this knowledge exchange supported by a grant from the South-South Facility, the identified knowledge providers were able to share their progress, challenges, lessons learned as well as provide practical solutions to other identified countries who are going through similar challenges with regards to the design and implementation of housing and urban upgrading policies and programs. The activity generated relevant knowledge on housing and urban upgrading, build the participant’s institutional capacity and provide timely insights for designing and implementing innovative interventions supported by the respecting Bank’s financed projects. Specifically, this activity supported the following activities:

  • Virtual knowledge workshops: several virtual knowledge sharing workshops in key areas including urban upgrading, demand-side subsidy schemes, housing finance, etc. were organized to showcase selected experiences and lessons learned of innovative policies and programs. These virtual workshops also worked as networking sessions for government officials and practitioners across the region.
  • Development of knowledge tools: after each of the virtual knowledge sharing workshops, practical tools, including presentations and briefs were developed to summarize and highlight the key topics and themes (concepts, processes, lessons learned, etc.)
  • Virtual study tour: development of a virtual study tour of the transformation of the Barrio Mugica in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The virtual study tour included interviews with practitioners, photos, and interactive material for participants to learn about an integrated urban upgrading project.

Lessons Learned

The governments learned a wide range of lessons from the knowledge exchange. These include, amongst others:

1. A sense of urgency: We need strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change on the housing sector now.

Climate change is having a significant effect on housing goals in Latin America. With rising sea levels, frequent and intense storms, and unpredictable weather patterns, many coastal communities face an increased risk of flooding, erosion, and other disasters. As a result, homeowners and governments are forced to take proactive measures to adapt to these new challenges. Specifically, the region’s vulnerability of informal settlements to climate change is a growing concern. These settlements are often located in high-risk areas, compounded with the need for more infrastructure and services, making it difficult for residents to prepare for and respond to disasters.

Governments across the region are increasing the housing sector’s resilience by scaling the development of green housing and retrofitting housing to ensure the structure can withstand extreme weather events.  For example, in Mexico, the National Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) program promotes cost-effective, energy-efficient building concepts in the sector, focusing on low-income housing. In addition, the program provides technical assistance to prominent public housing financiers and housing developers on green housing strategies, as well as financial incentives and project-related technical support for small and medium-sized developers and financial intermediaries.

2. From housing to sustainable urban development: We observe the sector’s transformation towards multidisciplinary approaches.

The housing sector is transforming from focusing on housing provision to a more holistic approach incorporating sustainable urban development.  This approach considers the broader social, economic, and environmental impacts of housing. It ensures they are integrated with more comprehensive urban planning and development strategies, such as public transport, public space, and infrastructure development. In Medellin, Colombia, the city’s transformation has been achieved through the design and implementation of integrated urban projects, including investments in housing, transport, and public infrastructure, to integrate previously marginalized neighborhoods into the fabric of the city. In Asuncion, Paraguay, the government is working on ambitious plans to transform the coastal area through better planning and investments in mobility, public space, basic infrastructure, and housing to increase urban, social, and environmental resilience.

3. Socio-urban transformation as a new paradigm: We witness the transition to more sustainable interventions centered and led by the communities.

A new paradigm in the housing sector focuses on community-led interventions.  This approach recognizes that communities are crucial in planning, designing, and implementing housing and urban development projects. It involves empowering communities to take ownership of the development process and actively participate in decision-making. Urban upgrading projects in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Manaus, Brazil, show that community-led interventions create a sense of ownership and pride in the built environment, leading to greater sustainability and resilience of the investments in the long run.

4. Innovation: We need to continue working on innovative planning, green/sustainable housing design, flexible financing mechanisms, and public-private articulation to accelerate results and impact.

Innovation is critical to the housing sector to address the challenges of affordability, sustainability, and inclusivity.  The latter involves developing new technologies, materials, and processes to improve housing efficiency, quality, and affordability. It also involves innovative financing mechanisms to make housing accessible to low-income and informal households.

Lessons learned for the World Bank:


  • Case study selection: To encourage participant engagement and broaden the range of case studies showcased, the program provided participants with the option to nominate case studies during registration. This approach led to an increased diversity of case studies selected and panelists representing different viewpoints, thereby promoting a more comprehensive and inclusive learning experience.
  • Content accessibility: The program ensured accessibility of the content by conducting all virtual events via Zoom and making them open to registered participants and the general public. To further widen access, the program created a dedicated YouTube channel where each session was uploaded after completion, providing a platform for wider viewership. The program has garnered over 1,576 views to date. Additionally, the program was made available through a course on the World Bank's Open Learning Campus (OLC) for public access.
  • Content development: To accommodate the diverse needs and interests of participants, the program provided various materials after each session. This included a 2-page summary, PowerPoint presentations, and the video recording of each session. These materials provided participants with the flexibility to engage with the content at their own pace, depending on their level of interest and availability.
  • Global perspective: Although the program focused on knowledge exchange within the LAC region, it incorporated sessions showcasing experiences from Thailand and India, as well as one session exploring the relationship between climate change and the housing sector. These sessions were among the most popular, demonstrating the value-added of incorporating a global perspective and knowledge sharing.

Beneficiaries / Participants


Ex-Secretary of Municipal Planning



Head of Implementing Unit, PROSAMIN



Minister of Housing

Sub Secretary of Housing

Co-founder, Phare Global



Head of Urban Management of the Medellin Metro Company

Vice-Minister of Housing


Dominican Republic

Vice-Minister of the Presidency



CEO, Syntellect



Director General, CONAVI

Director General, Sociedad Hipotecaria Federal



Chief of Staff, Ministry of Housing

Technical Advisor, Ministry of Public Infrastructure



Minister of Housing

Senior Land Specialist

World Bank Contribution

A World Bank task team facilitated the knowledge exchange. The team invited experts – from both inside and outside the Bank to speak on key topics of relevance on the matter.

Moving forward

All the program's materials were archived in the World Bank's Open Learning Campus (OLC) and are accessible to the public. This ensures that the resources can be easily accessed by a wide range of individuals, fostering ongoing knowledge exchange. Furthermore, a blog highlighting the program's key lessons learned has been published on the World Bank Blogs site, which can be found at The blog refers to the OLC site, enabling the material to reach an even broader audience and continue expanding its impact.


The Latin America and the Caribbean Housing & Habitat South-South knowledge exchange program “Vivienda Sostenible para Todos”, brought together more than 540 professionals, government authorities, and academics from the sector to discuss what they have learned from public policies, projects, and new approaches to housing and urban development in the region and the world. Participants came from 14 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Spain and the United States.

From April to December 2022, the program hosted 15 virtual learning events on housing, habitat and urban development, including a launch event and a closing session. The events were organized around three learning paths: (i) housing upgrading and social integration; (ii) housing improvement and financing mechanisms; and (iii) planning the housing of the future. The events highlighted both national and local programs and policies in eight countries in the region as well as three global ones. Additionally, the program developed a virtual study tour of the upgrading of the Barrio Mugica in Bueno Aires, Argentina. The study tour is composed of an interactive series of interviews with practitioners and videos that show the transformation of one of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods. To date, 396 people have engaged in the virtual study tour.

The virtual knowledge exchange program “Vivienda Sostenible para Todos” had several outcomes, including:

  • Sharing of best practices: The program served as a valuable platform for the exchange of best practices, experiences, and lessons learned from various countries and cities within the LAC region and beyond. Through showcasing successful strategies and innovative approaches, it provided insights into addressing common challenges in the housing sector, thus paving the way for more effective interventions in the future. The program supported cross-border collaboration and knowledge sharing, which are essential for achieving sustainable and equitable housing development.
  • Collaboration and networking: The program successfully established a collaborative platform for networking among the participants and panelists, thereby fostering opportunities for future partnerships and knowledge exchange. The interactive sessions provided a forum for participants to actively engage with the panelists, ask questions and share their thoughts, thus promoting an environment of open discussion and meaningful interaction.
  • Increased awareness: The program effectively increased the awareness of the participants regarding the crucial role of housing and urban development in promoting sustainable development. It provided insights into the challenges that the sector confronts due to rapid urbanization and highlighted actionable opportunities to address them.


The World Bank took the lead in coordinating the activities.

Fluyt, a Colombia-based knowledge consultancy firm, played a crucial role in the program's development. Fluyt provided essential support in various areas, such as organizing events, reaching out to speakers, designing the virtual study tour, and more. Their valuable contributions ensured the smooth execution and success of the program.