One year into his term as mayor, Renán Barrera Concha says that population growth is one of his main challenges.
Anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 people come to live in the Yucatan capital each year, he estimated. New residents come from other parts of Mexico, and less often, from abroad.
Mérida’s so-called “metropolitan area”, which in 80 years has grown from 250,000 inhabitants to around 1 million, struggles to keep up with housing, transportation and employment.
Of the 4,000 new homes recently built, most are in the northwest and northeast of the city. But the City Council is working on a plan to attract residents back to the center of the city, fighting the “donut effect” of a hollow Centro, surrounded by a ring of populated neighborhoods.
“What this urban development program is looking for is that the city center can be redensified and repopulated. That means we have to make urban development policies a little more aggressive,” he said.
The plan to attract the inhabitants to the Centro contemplates the development of alternative housing concepts such as townhouses, high rises and mixed-use complexes that allow commercial and residential uses in the same building.
For now, the most new housing appears in the Francisco de Montejo subdivision and north of the Periferico, towards Dzityá, Comchén, Sierra Papacal, and to the northeast of Merida. A strip that runs from Las Américas to Ciudad Caucel, a point that borders the municipality of Ucú; on the east side, new housing is in the Los Héroes subdivision.
That has resulted in urban sprawl — and an infrastructure challenge.
“There is an increasing interest of investors to invest within the city and less in the periphery, something that certainly helps us to guarantee the quality of life of citizens,” Barrera Concha said.
Today, people home shopping in the downtown area are mainly people who are looking for a place to retire, or to to find investments.
In the last seven years, about 500 properties —often in ruins — have been acquired by foreigners, mostly for residential use, according to City Council data.
Renán Barrera stressed that it must be understood that the city has become much more dynamic.