The Social Re-signification of Housing:
A Design Guide for Santiago de Chile
The thesis argues against the neoliberal low-income housing and urban planning policies applied in Santiago de Chile since 1979. Although successful in meeting the historical housing deficit by providing widespread access to homeownership, the lack of including social services, infrastructure, and architectural and urban design have created a model of economic and cultural development highly unsustainable in the long term that ultimately fosters social inequalities. This problem is rooted in the conceptual limitations of the existing policy framework, which does not recognize fundamental social differences – only economic ones – being unable to fully respond to the needs of people living in vulnerable conditions. The thesis calls therefore for a new model of housing and infrastructural provision capable of delivering social welfare by recognizing different forms of ‘social’ housing and including problems of design to the policy framework of housing. Based on this problem, the thesis investigates the housing design guide as a regulatory instrument that aims at ensuring the overall quality of housing by bringing together policies and design, while providing guidance to different agents involved in its provision. The housing design guide is a powerful means to challenge abstract and technocratic policymaking by posing questions of design at different scales. Thus, the research focus is twofold: it explores the social, political, and regulatory effects of the application of the housing design guide in the context of Santiago, and unfolds a set of fundamental design principles that rethink the disciplinary agencies of this instrument and problems of contemporary design.