Report reveals that Mérida’s expansion model is not financially viable in the long term

Photo: (La jornada maya)

Mérida, Yucatán, (July 28, 2021).- The uncontrolled urban expansion of the city of Mérida has generated various economic, social, and environmental costs, in addition to ecological problems and inequality; “The current model is not financially sustainable in the long term”, reveals the report ‘The cost of urban expansion in Mexico’, which was carried out by the Coalition for Urban Transformation in Mexico together with the Mexico World Resources Institute (WRI Mexico, for its acronym in English).

The research analyzes the cost of peripheral urban expansion in eight metropolitan areas: Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana, Reynosa, Mérida, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, and Culiacán and recommends basic principles to consider moving towards inclusive planning that respects the environment, in which urban economic potential is maximized.

After analyzing various indicators, the document shows that the current model of urban development in these cities is not financially viable in the long term due to insufficient municipal collection and higher costs of travel and provision of services in cities with greater dispersion and vulnerability in the face of climate change.

The report reveals that Mexican cities, including Mérida, face several challenges that hinder their transformation towards a compact, connected, coordinated, clean, and equitable urban model: uncontrolled urban expansion, pollutant emissions, and inequality in access to employment and urban equipment.

“Urban expansion in the last twenty years has been verified more markedly in intermediate cities, especially in rural localities in metropolitan areas, with growth four times higher than that of urban localities in those cities,” he emphasizes.

In turn, according to the research, the expansion has brought with it an increase in emissions of atmospheric pollutants – mainly PM10 and PM25 particles – and greenhouse gases, especially in small and medium-sized cities.

Urban inequality is the norm

In addition to this, the new urban peripheries are spaces of socio-spatial segregation, with few opportunities for informal employment and with poor access to urban satisfiers that improve the quality of life: formal employment, basic urban facilities, and public space.

“Mexican cities are polarized: the population with the greatest resources concentrates access to urban amenities and the most disadvantaged are deprived of a large part of these options,” the document states.

One of the challenges facing this expansion is to provide a space that guarantees access to the benefits that the city provides and improves the quality of life of the population; however, this is not fulfilled, according to the report, the most vulnerable population is forced to live in the urban peripheries, with poor or non-existent access to sources of employment, basic urban facilities and good quality means of public transport.

“Urban inequality is the norm in Mexico. The insufficient institutional capacities of many local governments, the low resources of their own and the asymmetries in the negotiation between public and private actors, among other aspects, frequently limit the capacity of public action to reverse this model ”.

Expansion cost

In addition to negative impacts on the environment, according to the report, urban expansion has an economic cost. In most cities, except for Culiacán, Mérida, and Mexico City, the urbanization of the road infrastructure of low-density housing developments has a major impact on the cost of housing construction, so it is suggested to bet on urban models denser.

Likewise, the analysis of the emissions component reveals that the lower modernization of the homes can lead to the use of greater volumes of material and, therefore, increase the cost of this component.

According to the research, the sum of the costs of providing basic urban services and the expense of the families’ travel accounts for more than one percent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually.

In 2050, half of the cities analyzed would need to increase their municipal spending from 48 to 244 percent to maintain the same current spending on housing in the provision of urban public services.

In addition, it indicates that the location of the new homes in consolidated areas close to sources of employment would mean a combined average saving of 5.6 percent in travel expenses, compared to a scenario of continuity of the current model.

On the other hand, the densification of distant peripheries that is not accompanied by localization policies can reduce the total cost of urban expansion in some cities, but not in all cases though. However, in this scenario, families have higher annual costs of travel, which affects the most vulnerable groups.

“Densification and location policies should not be implemented in isolation, but jointly to maximize their benefits and according to the particular context of each city”, the analysis specifies.

“These have to be created in a context of co-responsibility in the planning of all levels of government. For this reason, planning instruments agreed between governments and citizens must be developed that are efficient, transparent, democratic and that regulate the future sustainable growth of the city,” the document continues.

The analysis emphasizes that urban planning should be the responsibility of all levels of government and, therefore, the development of transversal planning instruments that allow directing public investment should be encouraged. Promoting comprehensive planning, respectful of the environment, inclusive and in which the economic potential of cities is developed.

Source: La Jornada Maya

The Yucatan Times Newsroom