Hello and welcome to the online publication of our ETH Master of Advanced Studies Thesis. Please browse through the site and feel free to contact us. Also feel free to open a user account and post your comments or open topics for discussion, all under Internal Links.


We want to thank Prof. Dietmar Eberle for the guidance provided in his feedback. We also want to thank Susanne Gysi and Basil Düby for their insightful critics and constant support, their comments and suggestions played important roles on both the content and the presentation of our thesis.

Our most sincere gratitude to Hans Zwimpfer the Geisendorf Stiftung and the ETH Zürich.


The choice of the topic for this research is the result of our combined personal interests on the topic of social housing in the central part of Mexico, on the existing typologies (of social housing) and their relation with the accelerated growth of Mexican cities.

Our first discussion with Prof. Dietmar Eberle was concerning our hypothesis, which was “Urban and architectural planning are extremely important factors to improve the quality and sustainability of social housing in Queretaro, a satellite city of Mexico City. During this discussion he pointed us towards essential questions concerning the following subjects:

1. Sustainability and social acceptance.
What are the social values of the people we are planning for? What kind of values are we able to transport through planning and which ones are lacking in the current planning?

2. The city.
Which ideal of a city, could serve as model for the future of Queretaro?
What is the goal which the city and its surroundings should follow?

3. Methodology.
How can planning help in the city’s development? Which planning tools may help to produce a change? Which kind of mechanism is able to manipulate and control sustainable development?

4. Learning from examples.
Are there any examples which will help us understand the current development observed in Querátaro? Is it possible to compare this situation to another one in Mexico or other parts in the world?

5. The user.
Who are we planning & building for? What are the users needs and interests, and how will they develop over the time?

In our work we have strived to respond some, yet not all of these questions. Our wish to contribute in this topic remains strong also beyond this inspiring year of theoretical study.




The city of Querétaro experiences an uncontrolled expansion of it´s surface. There is a lack of implemented low-cost housing models which could otherwise promote a compact, more sustainable development of the city.

Such an explosive growth is similar to that which happened in the capital Mexico City during its booming years. The peripheries of the city are the result of two different single-family housing production processes:(Castillo, Mexico City´s paradoxical dialectics of growth”, 2007: p. 57)

The first, dominant model of city-making in Mexico are informal settlements characterized by the fact that they are produced outside the legal, regulatory and professional frameworks. The second model is a more recent phenomenon and is characterized by the large-scale transformation of privately owned tracts into developer-driven mass housing. Both of these processes have proven their capability to rapidly propagate throughout surroundings of the city, yet neither of them provide enough services or infrastructure which are essential for a city to develop sustainably.

Sustainable development has been appropriately identified as an urgent necessity in a study called “El estado actual de la Vivienda en Mexico 2006” which was published by the Foundation for Investigation and Documentation of Housing in Mexico, “CIDOC” in october 2006.

The following statement has been translated from the original version in spanish: “ is essential to see sustainable development as a normed application of basic housing construction”.(CIDOC, Estado Actual de la Vivienda 2006”, 2006: p. 15-16)

The study also emphasizes on the aforementioned dualistic aspect of the problem: “...on one side of the spectrum we have huge, massive, ‘social’ housing develoments which count only with one single prototype which is not adaptable to specific needs of each family...”(CIDOC, Estado Actual de la Vivienda 2006”, 2006: p. 15-16)

“...on the other side of the spectrum we find ‘non-assisted, self-help construction’ which turns out cheaper and is much more flexible towards families preferences, but usually results in a bad structural quality and illegal practices.” (CIDOC, Estado Actual de la Vivienda 2006, 2006: p.15)

“It is important to find middle grounds between these two opposites... developing better practices through the creative design of low-cost, sustainable housing, we may be able to influence housing in a positive way” (CIDOC, Estado Actual de la Vivienda 2006, 2006: p.16)

“El desarrollo de mejores prácticas en diseños habitacionales de bajo costos, prácticos, creativos, flexibles y sobre todo sustentables, puede influir de forma determinante para encontrar un justo medio entre estos dos extremos.” (CIDOC, Estado Actual de la Vivienda 2006, 2006: p.16)

The problem of social housing in México will not be solved by providing the adequate quantity of housing units which are needed in each period, nor will it be solved by controlling the amount of informal housing which is illegally produced by self-help builders.

In our opinion, the improvement of quality in social housing in Mexico should be based on a response to people’s needs and possibilities alike. According to the governments current housing program, (Programa Sectorial de Vivienda 2001-2010) the quality of social housing is determined by it´s size, it´s location and it´s provision of basic services. (SDS, Programa Sectorial de Vivienda 2001-2010, Introducción, 2001:3)

We believe that quality in social housing is also determined by the social and environmental characteristics of each housing typology, and by the set of organizational, urban and architectural design strategies which have been used in its production.


We both come from Queretaro and have observed the city’s rapid growth happen over the last two decades. We know such an explosive growth can carry negative consequences for the people and their environment.

The growth of Queretaro´s suburbs is related primarily to the production of housing, the same effect can be seen in Mexico City, only 50 years earlier.

“The lack of accesible social housing is the main factor which has promoted the physical expansion of Mexico City into peripheral municipalities” Yet architects seem to have little or no influence on the planning which takes place in connection with social housing. (, Date of Consultation: Nov. 5th, 2006:1)

Our wish is to discover the reasons which lie behind the aforementioned dualistic in social housing in Querétaro’s suburbs. The existence of these two processes has made us turn into deep reflection of the relationship which irregular settlements and mass housing developments have with our history and present situation.

The Goal of our study is to increase the knowledge of alternative ways to improve the quality in social housing in Querétaro, while promoting a sustainable development of the city.

The results of the study would ultimately help us, architects, in our creative approach to generate better “options” for low income families, which in turn should improve their life quality in the suburbs.

To improve the quality of social housing in our country represents for us, as architects and citizens of Queretaro, a big challenge and is a key factor in assuring a sustainable development of the city in the future.


The research focuses on finding the inherent potential of organizational, urban and architectural strategies which have been used in the production of social housing in the past.

To learn more in detail about an example, we analyze the city center of Queretaro as an urban model. In order to observe the extended growth of the city we will also analyze the northwest suburb and its housing typologies.



“In English, the word housing can be used as a noun or as a verb... ...when used as a noun, housing describes a commodity or product.” John Turner, a pioneer investigator of informal housing production in the developing world advises: “...for a proper understanding of housing we must use the term as a verb...” (Turner, Housing as a Verb, 1972: p.151(10 Walker, The social context of Built Form, 2001: p.3))


According to the aforementioned study on the current state of housing in Mexico (2006) “housing quality refers to the attributes and properties of housing as an object and the demands and ideals which humans have over it...” , “...housing quality is, therefore, an essential component of life quality which refers to a persons possibilities to satisfy its fundamental human needs in a suitable manner.” (CIDOC, El estado Actual de la vivienda en méxico, 2006: p.64)

“To evaluate the quality of housing it is necessary to identify all the distinctive attributes of the housing object and its urban surroundings, from the social, cultural, economical and political perspectives.”

John Turner explains one of the consequences related to the wrong interpretation of the term “housing quality” on behalf of the state authority: “as long as it is erroneously assumed that a house of materially higher standards is necessarily a better house, then housing problems will be mis-stated in terms of the number of units ‘needed’ to replace the ‘sub-standard’. (Turner, 1976: p.60 (Walker, op cit. p.3))



The first part of our thesis is an introduction which briefly explains the grounds on which we build our study.

The second part is the theoretical framework of our study, which we organized in three parts: the regional, the statistical, and the historical framework. We aim to learn about relationships existing between the regional, statistical and historical frameworks and our main topic of investigation which is the quality of social housing in Querétaro, Mexico.

In the third part of the study we aim to learn about the processes existing organizational, urban, and architectural design typologies which are in use Queretaro. We analyze the players and their influence on the quality of social housing.

We then focus on two areas of the city; on the one part we analyze the city center which serve as an example of sustainable development from our point of view. After doing so, we focus on one largely extended part of the city in the northwest suburbs and its housing typologies.

The fourth and final part are the conclusions.


Our hypothesis is that organizational, urban and architectural planning are some of the primary factors which will improve the quality and sustainability of social housing in Queretaro, Mexico.

In order to achieve this, architects should get involved in the process of planning and building to help optimize the use of social, ecological and economical resources.

The cases of fast growing satellite cities of Mexico City like Querétaro Toluca, Puebla, Pachuca and Cuernavaca, should be seen as opportunities where we may recognize the errors of mass urban development which have been put to use, in order to improve them.






The accelerated growth of urban population in Latin America is a result of the migration patterns which add up to the natural growth the citys population. As urban population increases, also demand for housing increases. Housing delivery was inefficient and insufficient. (Bähr Jürgen (1988), Housing in Latin American cities, Geographischen Instituts der Universität Kiel, p. 99-114.)

Since the 1960’s Latin America is characterized by being leader in inequality - not only in the unequal distribution of income, but also in education, health, housing, public services, employment, police and judicial treatment and political participation. (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, (UNCHS-Habitat). (2005) Land Tenure, Housing Rights and Gender in Mexico. p. 3)

Most Latin American countries have high levels of land ownership concentration, making the region the world’s worst in terms of fair distribution of the land. This is a key factor responsible for the mar ginalisation of vulnerable segments of the population. (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, (UNCHS-Habitat). (2005) Land Tenure, Housing Rights and Gender in Mexico. p. 3)


Mexico is the third biggest country in Latin America. It is located in North America, bounded to the north by the United States; on the south and west by the North Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea.

As the only Latin American member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since 1994, Mexico is firmly established as an upper middle-income country. (List of upper middle income countries by the World Bank)

So far the government has concentrated investment in infrastructure capable of attracting industry. Roads and transport system became central elements for the maintenance of economic growth. Workers were forced to settle in the peripheries, near to the industrial areas because they could not afford plots or rental units in the more central parts of the city. (Souza, Marcelo Lopes. (2003). Mudar a Cidade: uma introdusao critica ao Planejaento e a Gestao Urbanos. Bertrand Brasil, Rio de Janeiro)

Mexico has a strong centralist and hierarchical tradition in which municipalities can be subordinated to the power of state governments, which in turn depend for the most part on decisions taken at federal level. Many obstacles stand in the way of full democracy. The lack of political representation of marginal sectors of society in the electoral process is evident. (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, (UNCHS-Habitat). (2005) Land Tenure, Housing Rights and Gender in Mexico. p. 2-4)


surface: 1,958,201 km2
1.31% of the World´s Land Coverage

population: 107,000,000
1.55% of the World´s Population

population density: 55 pop/km2
World Average is 48 pop/km2

subdivision: 31 “States”
and one “Federal District”


“The search for modernity led us to discover our antiquity, the hidden face of the nation. I am not sure whether this unexpected historical lesson has been learned by all: that between tradition and modernity there is a bridge. When they are mutually isolated, tradition stagnates and modernity vaporizes; when joined, modernity breathes life into tradition, and tradition responds by providing depth and gravity”. (Octavio Paz, Mexican Writer and Nobel Laureate from In Search of the Present, in: Praxis, journal of writing and building, issue two, volume one. p. 12-13)

Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world. This fact has historical reasons: from the 13th to the 16th century it was the capital of the Aztec Empire (Tenochtitlan). In 1521, the Spanish conquered the Aztecs. A new city was erected upon the ruins of the Aztec city. Today it concentrates almost fifty percent of the economy.

Between 1950 and 2000 the population increased dramatically. The industrialization and the economic development carried up a rapid urbanization, provoked by the demographic explosion and the immigration of people from rural areas.

“Many people ask, “what is the main problem of the city?” Some say water or housing, etc. Each one of those is important but the complex interrelation of these issues is the main problem of the city. The problem of the city is not a problem of architects, it’s not a problem of size. It’s much more complicated” (Roberto Eibenschutz, architect, and Head of the Mexico City Department of Urban Planning, in: Praxis, journal of writing and building, issue two, volume one. p. 12-13)

The “ZMVM” or “Zona Metropolitana del Valle de México holds 18.6% of all Mexicans and has a surface of 150’000 hectares. Its population is approximately 20’000’000 inhabitants.



Thirty percent of the export income is due to oil in the Golf of Mexico. In the North part of the country the industry and activities of the service sector determine the economy. Guadalajara in the northwest and Monterrey in the north, with approximately 5 million people each are two important cities attracting investment. Also the high industirial development of the north part of the country was stimulated by the border with the USA. In the South part agriculture and – arising in the last decades - tourism are the most important economic sources for the country.


First of all the economical and urban growth was extremely concentrated in the capital, In the 80s this growth spread out towards secondary small and medium sized cities (Pachuca, Queretaro, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Cuernavaca y Toluca) that were promoted by national and international programs in order to support decentralization.

Today economic globalization plays an important role. It makes capital, markets and production extremely flexible. Regional centers are attractive to investors: there are abundant labor forces, low taxes, and practically no existence of environmental policy. (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, (UNCHS-Habitat). (2001) Cities in a globalising world: Global Report on Human Settlements. London.)

In Mexico City, the changing politics, traffic chaos, high prices of land, and the strict environmental control make the situation more complicated for the development / growth of industry and service sectors.



"The urban agglomeration of Querétaro holds 0.74% of all Mexicans, it has a surface
of 12’200 hectares and has a population of approximately 840’000 inhabitants."

When speaking about Querétaro, we may refer to the State of Querétaro, the Municipality of Querétaro and/or the City of Querétaro.

The State and the Municipality of Querétaro are political entities with specific regional boundaries, while the City of Querétaro has been officially classified as an “urban agglomeration” which is constantly growing.

The State of “Querétaro de Arteaga” is located in central México. It neighbours to the north and northeast with San Luis Potosí, to the east with Hidalgo, to the south with Michoacán, to the southeast with the state of Mexico and to the west with Guanajuato. Querétaro is one of the smallest states in our country, ranking at 27th (out of 32) in territorial surface and a surface percentage of 6%.

The municipality of Querétaro is located to the soutwest of Querétaro State, It neighbours to the north and west with the State of Guanajuato, to the south with the Corregidora and Huimilpan municipalities,
and to the east with the “El Marqués” municipality. It´s extension is 760 sq. km., which is a 6.5% of the state´s surface. (SEDESOL, “Hábitat, Estudios en 56 Áreas Urbanas de Concentración
de Pobreza, Querétaro, Barrio: Santa María Magdalena”, 2005: p.10)

Our research and investigation will refer primarily to the solution of a problem in the “Urban Agglomeration” of Querétaro, but we shall often refer to both “Querétaro State” and the “Municipality of Querétaro” as political entities because of the political and thereby legal and organizational consequences which this fact carries.

surface: 11,449 km2
0.58% of the country’s surface
population: 1,800,00
1.4% of the country’s population
population density: 140 pop/km2
Country Average is 55 pop/km2
subdivision: 18 “Municipios”
State Capital: Querétaro




surface: 760 km2
6.63% of the state´s surface
population: 745,000
41.38% of the state’s population
population density: 965 pop/km2
State Average is 140 pop/km2
subdivision: “Delegaciones”


In this chapter we present some facts regarding the more recent evolution and expansion of the population growth and population density of the city of Querétaro.

We furthermore present results found in a study which concerns the present need of housing for both the state and the municipality of Querétaro.

This data has allowed us to compare the situation in the state of Querétaro with that of other states in the country and the situation in the municipality of Querétaro with that of other municipalities in the state of Querétaro.

The demographical aspects analyzed are narrowly related to the growth and the expansion of the city and consequently to the housing needs and housing situation which are at the end affecting the quality of social housing which is the topic of our research.

The information in this chapter helped us gain a broader understanding of the housing problematic at different scales. We hope that by presenting our comparative analysis s we may convey a more precise idea about the weight and magnitude of the problem at hand.


The city of Querétaro is the capital of the state of Querétaro. It is considered one of the most important cities of Mexico due to its historical and cultural heritage, it is also the largest urban, industrial and commercial center of the state. (SEDESU, “Queretaro Economic Yearbook”, 2006 : p.18)

It is located to the southeast of the state’s territory and is also in the southern part of an important region called “el Bajío” which includes the plains south of the Sierra de Guanajuato, as well as the valley of Querétaro and Michoacán. (Enciclopedia de los municipios de México, Querétaro, Querétaro http:// htm, Date of Consultation: Jan 2007.)

“The Bajío region is privileged by it´s closeness to the center of our country and it´s favourable climate, this creates various opportunities for development, and is a competitive advantage which has enabled an increased participation in our national development” (SEDESU, op. cit.: p.17)

Queretaro´s location has positively influenced it´s economic growth but it has also brought an unexpected increase of it’s population and the surface it covers. (Lamy, “Urbanisation et évolution urbaine”, 2000: p.4)

Table 1:
Population growth and urban sprawl (hectares)

in the urban agglomeration of Querétaro 1940-2015.


The urban area of Querétaro City was originally contained by the municipality of Querétaro but it has grown into peripheral municipalities in the last decade. It´s population still lies under a million, which is why today, when referring to the City of Querétaro we should, according to the “S.U.N.” or “Sistema Urbano Nacional” system, refer to an “Urban Agglomeration”.

The “S.U.N.” system classifies mexican urban areas into “ZM´s” or “Zonas Metropolitanas” when referring to an urban area which has sprawled into neighbouring municipalities and has more than a million inhabitants, while “Aglomeraciones Urbanas” are considered to be urban areas which have grown into peripheral municipalities but “still have less than one million inhabitants”. The “S.U.N.” also describes Cities or “Ciudades” as “those which are still contained within one municipality. (CONAFOVI, Hacia un código de edificación de vivienda, May 2005: p.22-23)

If the population in the “urban agglomeration” of Querétaro was to maintain its current annual growth of 23’000 new inhabitants per year, then it would reach a million by the year 2015. Only then it would officially acquire the characteristics of a “Metropolitan Zone” according to the “S.U.N”. (

source: (Gob. Mpal., Plan Mpal. de Desarrollo, 2006: p.62)


The “INEGI” or “Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática”, is the National Institute responsible of gathering, organizing and offering statistical and geographical information about the Mexican territory and it´s population.

According to INEGI’s statistics, the rate of nation-wide population growth was 1.8% for the period between 1990 and 2000. The rate has been estimated at approximately 1.4% for the period between 2000 and 2010. By contrast, the rate of population growth for the state of Querétaro has been estimated at 2.2% for that same period. (see table)

The population living in the Querétaro municipality was an approximate 640’000 in the year 2000 and grew to an approximate 750’000 by 2005. Roughly 94% of people living in the Querétaro urban agglomeration, (an estimated 800’000 by 2007) live in the Querétaro municipality.

The annual rate of population growth for the Querétaro municipality was 2.9 % for the period between 2000 and 2005, which was much higher than both the state´s and the nation´s annual rate of population growth in that period.

Such an accelarated population growth is mostly due to the large amount of people who have moved out of the capital (Mexico City) and come settle in Querétaro. The rate is expected to decrease in the following years, but only in a few percentage decimals.

Table 2:
Population by municipality 2000-2005-2010,
Annual Growth Rate by municipality in the 2000-2010 period.

source: (Censo de Población 2000. INEGI. Proyecciones de Población 2000 - 2010. CONAPO. Necesidades de Vivienda 2000 - 2010. CONAFOVI


The population in Querétaro has taken a predominantly urban profile during the last half of the last century.

The increase in the urban share of total population is referred to as a “rate of urbanization” by the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) which is one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations.

They calculated average annual rates of urbanisation by states in Mexico for the period between 1950 and 1990. The following map can be found online on their webpage. (see source) The state of Querétaro presents one of the fastest rate of urbanization in the country, only five out of 31 states in the country had an average annual rate of urbanisation larger than 2% for the period between 1950 and 1990.


source: (

This type of behaviour is related to inter-state migrations. By looking at the map we see that states with lower average annual rates of urbanisation (0 to 1) are usually located next to those with higher rates (of 2 to 3), while the states with more medial averages tend to remain contiguous.


The most densely populated states in Mexico are located in the central part of the country, surrounding the “D.F.” (Federal District) and Mexico City. The Federal District has 5,862 inhabitants per sq. km. The state of Mexico and the state of Morelos are the two most densely populated States after the Federal District with 586 and 318 inhabitants per sq. km. respectively. ( capsulas/2004/sociodemograficas/densidad.asp?c=1008)

The following map reflects the population density with increasingly darker tones towards the central part of Mexico.

The state of Querétaro has a population density of 120 inhabitants per sq. km. which is more than double the national average which is 50 inhabitants per ( conteo2005/default.asp?c=6224 date of consultation: 7.18.2007)

The state of Querétaro has 0.6 % of the country´s surface yet, because of it´s population density, accounts for 1.6 % of the country´s population and 1.8 % of the country´s demand for housing.

Population distribution on the state’s surface is not uniform, the majority of people (55%) are living in the urban agglomeration of Querétaro and only 30% of Querétaro’s population lives in towns or communities with less than 2’500 inhabitants.

The municipality of Querétaro has only 6.5% of the state’s surface yet because of it´s population density it accounts for 46% of the state´s population. With a surface of 760 sq. km. and a population of 745’000, its population density reached 965 inhabitants per sq. km. in the year 2005.

The next table compares the municipalitiy and the states’s population, its percentage in relation to the the state´s population and its population density developed rapidly between 1950 and 2005 The last population count (year 2005) showed 1’601’101 inhabitants in the state of Querétaro but in the year 1950 there were only 286, 238 inhabitants and in 1990, 1’051’235. This means the state´s population increased almost 54,000 in the first half of the last century and more than 1,’311’000 added up during the second half.

Table 3:

Population vs. population density. Relationships between the municipality of Querétaro, the state of Querétaro, and the country (Mexico) 1950-2005.

The period with the highest demographic growth was during the 70’s, when the state showed rates surpassing even the highest national record (which happened during the previous decade, in the 60’s and was of 3.3) in that decade, Queretaro grew at an average 4.1% a year.

Such an accelarated population growth should have been followed by an equally accelarated increase in housing availability. Housing availability is a relative concept which ca be difficult to measure, yet the INEGI (see definition on page x), has taken a recent (2005) census on the subject called “Conteo de Población y Vivienda, 2005”.




The following statements are based on results of the 2005 INEGI´s census “II Conteo de Población y Vivienda, 2005” ( The country has102’846’413 occupants living in 24’706’956 housing units, the State of Querétaro has 1’591’968 occupants living in 359’953 housing units and the municipality of Querétaro has 745’189 inhabitants living in 164’344 housing units.

Based on these statements we can determine average amounts of occupants per unit (for the year 2005) as follows, 4.16 for the country, 4.42 for the state and 4.53 for the municipality. Yet the exact amount of occupants per housing unit is variable.

We see the amount of housing units rise quickly towards the more populated range of 9 or more persons while the resting range follows a natural “bell” curve. We may therefore conclude that the formerly mentioned range experiences a housing deficit.


The “CONAFOVI” or “Comisión Nacional de Fomento a la Vivienda”, is the federal government’s commision responsible for the political instrumentation, coordination and promotion of the housing policy and the national housing program of México.

The “Necesidades de Vivienda 2000-2010” is a publication which summarizes the results found in a study lead by the CONAFOVI in which they calculated housing needs by state and municipality in Mexico for the period between 2000 and 2010.

The goal of the study was to help organisations which are active in the Housing Sector, such as planning and financing organisations, in their take of decisions for the 2000-2010 period.

The Federal Government used these results to set their goals which are primarily related to the financing of housing units: their current goals were set in the “Programa Sectorial de Vivienda 2001-2010”;

“It has been estimated by the CONAFOVI that our country will have 45 million homes by 2030. The former represents a need for building 766 thousand units a year. The Federal government accordingly set their goal to finance 750 thousand new housing units in the last year (2006) and to keep that figure steady in the following years.”

In the case of the state of Querétaro we find the highest need of (new) housing units concentrated in the municipality of Querétaro. It represents a XX% of the state’s need of (new) housing units. Altogether, the states need of new housing units is 1.8% in relation to the need of (new) housing units at national level.

Table 5:
Population and need of new housing units by municipality in the state of Querétaro with their percenteage in relation to the state, and the state’s percenteage in relation to the national total.

Source: (Censo de Población 2000. INEGI. Proyecciones de Población 2000 - 2010. CONAPO. Necesidades de Vivienda 2000 - 2010. CONAFOVI)




Remains clearly show that both the state of Querétaro and the Bajío region had human settlements with cultural activity as early as 200 AD. (http://www.e-local.gob.mx14, Date of Consultation: feb 2007)The ruins known today as “El Pueblito” or “El Cerrito” used to serve as ceremonial centers for the surrounding residential area which was largely extended.

This region had been occupied by “Otomis” or “Nhäñhú”, an indigenous group which still exists today, they built their homes out of adobe, mixing water, earth and organic fibers. There was also the presence of other tribes, including “Chichimecas”, “Purépechas” and “Aztecas”, which did conquer the region, the last of these had even placed checkpoints here to control the tributes on goods and merchandise. (,-Quer%E9taro)

The first height in the prehispanic history of this area occurred at around 600 AD, when the societies living in the Querétaro valley were already taking profit from its excellent agricultural conditions.

The “Mexico Municipality Encyclopedia” (available online at mentions a few of these settlements by their common name “Santa Bárbara, La Negreta, El Recodo, El Shindó, El Molinito” and “La Cueva”.

The people living in these settlements produced all their domestic needs and had political and spiritual leaders. The end of this period comes at the same time of Teotihuacan´s disintegration at around 600AD During 300 years the small complex at “El Pueblito” stopped being used.

“El Cerrito” or “El Pueblito” is an archaeological site which is under restoration. The urban sprawl of the Querétaro agglomeration surrounds the site to the south.

Photo Source:
user: “khawkins33”
tags: ElCerrito


In the following centuries, the widespread population in the surroundings of “El Cerrito” kept growing and by 950 AD newer settlements developed in the area; “Puerta de Tepozán, San Bartolo, La Joya, Tlacote y La Magdalena” by then, the pyramid at “El Pueblito” was again being used as spiritual and political center by the surrounding population.

The effect these settlements still have on the urban sprawl of the city is visible. The Querétaro agglomeration has been extending slowly in these directions; reaching to the north towards Tlacote and La Joya which were mentioned earlier, whereas the archeological site of “El Pueblito”, in the southwest, is allready partially surrounded by the urban sprawl of the Querétaro agglomeration.

The red marks represent the location of the “El Pueblito” Archaeological site as well as two of the above mentioned communities: “Tlacote” and “La Joya”. Two city contours are represented; the one in black represents the city’s contour in 1900, the white one represents 2007.


This previous picture was taken from the pyramid at “El Cerrito” looking towards the city.
The biggest hill on the background is the “Cerro del Cimatario”.

The city sprawl has yet to reach communities such as Tlacote el Bajo which are of indigenous origin. In the picture (above) we see the northern suburbs of the Querétaro agglomeration (located to the bottom right of the pictue) reaching towards “Tlacote el Bajo” (in the upper-left corner of the same picture)

The intricacy of the streets in this type of settlement is noteworthy. They follow the site’s topography, the structure is similar to that of the indigenous part of the colonial city of Querétaro which is mentioned in the following pages.

We may also notice the relationship existing between these communities and the resources that are found in the area. Tlacote has a well known water spring which is the reason why we see a good amount of vegetation in the area including some larger trees.

These are the natural conditions which probably gave birth to the Tlacote settlement more than a thousand years ago.


Great part of the state’s cultural richness originates from the indigenous societies who were inhabiting the region before colonial times. (SEDESOL, Gob. del Edo., Economic Yearbook 2006, pg. 77) In the pictures to the right we see only a few of the common activities which are still practiced in their rural communities.

Also today, most of Queretaro’s Indigenous people are otomies or ñhä-ñhö, which account for 81% of all indigenous language speakers aged five and over in the state. In spite of their rich cultural background, most indigenous people have remained economically poor. It should come not as a surprise, since their most basic human rights (life, freedom, equality before the law) have been repeatedly interjected throughout history and by different interests.

According to the 2006 Economic Yearbook, issued by the state’s government, “the majority of Indigenous people in the state of Querétaro are living in poverty in terms of their employment, income, housing, health and education” it further states “Illiteracy percent is 27.4% for the indigenous, which is above the national and state average” this situation has persisted despite numbered efforts on the government side to help them integrate. (an exact description of these efforts can be found on page 87 of the Economic Yearbook) Their needs and aspiration have forced them to emigrate in search of wage-earning work, in order to support their families. For many years they had migrated to the capital, Mexico City. Where men would tipically work as bricklayers and women as domestic servants. ( More lately, the city of Querétaro attracts an increasing number of Indigenous people coming not only from the State but also from other parts in the country searching for employment.



The spanish conquerors built vast networks of cities which helped them take control over their new territories. This is why most of the urban settlements in Latin America existing today were founded during the 16th century. ( Date of Consultation: Jan 27, 2007)

The town of Querétaro was founded on July 25th of the year 1531 when Spanish conqueror Fernando de Tapia joined by a local Otomí leader named “Conín” agreed to a peaceful and symbolic battle in which the local conquest was won by Spain. (
municipios: 14, Date of Consultation: Apr 4 2007)

The Otomi tribes were glad to join the spanish conquerors since it represented their opportunity to free themselves from the rule of the Aztec empire. (
Those who did not wish to comply fled to the mountains.

At that time, cities were less physical objects but more an instrument on which the process of colonization was supported, under political, theological and economical basis.

“The area (Querétaro Valley) had been recognized as being of strategic importance since it connected rich mining regions of Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas with Mexico City.”(

“Expeditions that aimed to conquer the north of the country and to convert local people to the Catholic faith left from the city of Querétaro. This is the main reason why the downtown area boasts so many religious buildings dating from this era.” Junípero Serra (catholic missionary) departed from Querétaro towards Alta California, where he was responsible for the founding of what became major California cities like San Francisco. (

According to Authors Mesías Gonzalez and Suárez Pareyón, The “New World” served as experimetal grounds where “the reproduction of the European Ideals of Urban Design was possible; sometimes respecting the existing structures of the autoctonous cultures, many times destroying them.” (, date of consultiation: Jan 27 2007)

“After numerous rehearsings, they had developed a system of written procedures, by which their cities were buing built.” Their experiences in ‘colonial urbanism’ are summarized in the “Ordenanzas de Felipe II” which were issued in the year 1576 as an attempt to provide guidelines by which the new cities should be built, giving them a certain uniformity.

The guidelines which Felipe II ordered have been sumarized by Jimmie L. King (, as follows:

“The land chosen shall be fertile and shall provide wood and water for everyone.The size of the mayor plaza will be determined by the number of neighbours, and will be located to the center of each town. The plaza will measure at least 60 x 90 (m) but it should not measure more than 90 x 240 (m) The plaza will be surrounded on 4 sides by streets, the buildings in these streets will have “portales”. The streets should be narrow in cities with warm conditions. Streets in which horses will circulate may be wider.”

“According to their growth, each town shall build smaller plazas where temples will be built. These temples shall not be built in the plazas, but to a distance at it´s side, so that it may be seen from all sides. The temple shall be adorned and whenever possible should be built at a higher level than that of the street. So that the entrance has steps.”

“The orientation of houses shall be so that they receive the wind at midday. And the rooms shalll be located so that they form a defense. It shall be procured that all building in town are built in the same manner, in order to keep them ornate. Houses shall be built in such manner that they impress the indians, causing admiration so they know that we are there to stay, and not just going through.” (Domingo García Ramos, Iniciación al Urbanismo, p. 73 – 82.)

“The old colonial town of Querétaro is unusual in having retained the geometric street plan of the Spanish conquerors side by side with the twisting alleys of the Indian quarters. The Otomi, the Tarasco, the Chichimeca and the Spanish lived together peacefully in the town, which is notable for the many ornate civil and religious Baroque monuments from its golden age in the 17th and 18th centuries.” (

Downtown Querétaro does not completely follow the colonial chessboard pattern, the areas surrounding the Convent of the Holy Cross follows a clearly irregular pattern, which is typical of the original native’s settlements. While the lower flatland suggests the idea of following the rigid but by that time “typical” chessboard pattern.

The possible reasons for this are numerous. These might have been topographic, programmatic (spaces being already used), or pre-existing obstructions or obstacles which are no longer evident.


Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez
(September 8, 1768 – March 2,1829)
better known as “La Corregidora.”
Her portrait has appeared on Coins and Bills.

Querétaro plays an important role during the Independence in 1810, some of the royal palaces in the city were being secretly used (by their owners) to arrange meetings when the conspiracy was being planned.

“La Corregidora” is a well known heroine, who lived in Querétaro and was married to the Spanish “Corregidor” or local magistrate, she got involved in the meetings and hosted a number of them in her house. Other important Independence heroes like Allende and Hidalgo came frequently to Querétaro to participate in the meetings. The conspirators were betrayed by an insider who Informed the viceroyal authorities about the planned rebellion. On September the 13th, the “Corregidor” became orders from Spain to have homes searched for artillery (in Querétaro) but before following orders he had to lock his wife (The Corregidora) in a room of the house since he knew she would let the rebels know about the news. She did manage, though, to deliver the message in time for a successful Independence on September 16th, 1810.

In 1824, the new Constitution included Querétaro as a State instead of a “corregimiento de letras” which was a special administrative region. The robust economy of Querétaro, and its capacity to generate enough revenues, was what made this possible. ( date of consultation: July 2007 The interventions made by Dr. Felix Osores y Soto Mayor were of vital importance in this event.

In 1847, the American troops invaded Mexico. On May 30th, 1848, the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in Querétaro, by which Mexico ceded half of its territory to the United States. ( date of consultation: July 2007)

“During the 18th Century, cities like Querétaro made possible the formation of local societies which would in turn produce the ideas which inspired the changes happened in the 19th century.” ( date of consultation: July 2007)

“During the 19th Century, Mexico turns independent, but finds itself obligated to open to newer world economy and even military powers”. ( date of consultation: July 2007)


Towards the end of the 19th century Mexico opened it´s doors to global commerce. People were attracted by the labor opportunities which were increasingly available in larger cities.

Those cities were transformed as consequence of the migration processes.

The city centers changed their function, families with higher economical levels moved to newer, more secluded “subdivisions” in rural areas with good locations.

Some colonial city centers (the one in Mexico City for example) began experiencing a more intense use of their surface; especially through densification in the homes of the wealthier which were no longer being used by their owners. This densification often took place through improvised divisions, giving way to mixed use buildings which offered space for housing, commerce and services. Bigger cities made substantial modifications to their colonial centers, inspired by contemporary european examples of urban (re)-arrangement, such as Hausmann’s Paris or Cerda´s Barcelona.

Smaller cities like Querétaro remained basically unchanged, conserving their ideological expressions of the colonization culture from that period; their grid and block’s definition, the location and use of public spaces or “plazas” and “jardines” and many of their religious and civic buildings.

Street near “La Cruz” in Querétaro, June 1867


In this chapter we refer to many of the older, larger homes in the colonial city centers which began to be used collectively by several families sharing facilities. Different names are used in reference to this phenomenon, “mesones”, “conventillos” or “ciudadelas”. For our study we will refer to this concept as the collective use of “casonas” or “patio houses”.

As mentioned earlier, wealthier families began to move out of their colonial houses in the city centers. The city centers had begun increasing their intensity of use, resulting noisy and polluted. The homes of the richer were originally conceived to house extended families which often lived together with their servants. The actual size of each house was variable, according to the economic level of the owners. The homes of the wealthier were divided on two levels.

The layout and construction of these houses is what eventually allowed them to be easily subdivided and collectively used. The entrance to most patio houses was through large wooden doors which would allow a horse pulled carriage to enter. These doors were usually provided with a smaller entrance for pedestrians.

The homes would consist of one, two or more rooms which connected. The kitchen, the bath and the laundry were of common use. Even a room alone would serve as an independent home; just one large space where a whole family would live. The height of most rooms allowed a division to the interior which was built of wood and could serve as a sleeping room.

(Los Centros Vivos, Rosendo Mesías Gonzalez / Alejandro Suárez Pareyón date of consultation: 1/27/2007)

Behind the entrance we find usually a large covered space which is referred to as “zaguán” which usually connected the first patio and the street outside. To one or both sides of the “zaguán” we often find “accesorías” which are rooms with doors facing the street. These rooms had high ceilings, they often had no connection to the house inside and stood completely independent.

Accesorías would ocassionally serve as a home, their advantage is the street front being their high ceilings. Different sorts of businesses were installed in the aforementioned “accesorías” which faced the street, this happened both during their use as family houses, and after, when they served as collective housing. Most of the other Rooms could be combined into different arrangements, forming small medium and even large homes which could have 7 or 8 rooms.

A very distinctive characteristic in all of these houses are their patios, which often served as workshops. The rooms would be typically arranged around a first, main patio and were usually provided with an outdoor corridor which served primarily as circulation. Most rooms had a high ceiling which helped them stay cool during hot summers. This trait eventually allowed another type of horizontal subdivision usually made of lighter construction (typically wood) to the interior of the rooms. Many combinations were possible, the rooms could be easily connected or left to serve independently.

This provided lots of flexibility since each room could be eventually turned into an independent housing unit with an individual entrance from the patio. Some houses had their own well and a fountain in the main patio, their brick and stone walls, were all stuccoed and many of them were beautifully hand painted. The combination of flexibility, mixed use and space layout which these homes have to offer is a lesson in history which served as an inspiration for some of the models that follow. (



By the end of the 19th Century many colonial city centers experienced the appearance of housing models specifically built for low-income families. They are better known today as “vecindades”.

This first form of social housing was inspired in the collective use of patio houses which we formerly mentioned. Patios and “Accesorías” were the two elements which were kept in the conception of “vecindades”, which at that time were still being built inside the city center.

The typology was purposely built for the working class and consisted in the grouping of small units, usually arranged along a private alley. The sharing of facilities remained their trait.

Many of these “Vecindades” still exist today in Querétaro, and they are still one of the most accesible types of housing which actually offer tenants a comparatively high life-quality level, because of their privileged location in the city center.

The same can be said about patio-houses which can still be found today, being used collectively.



"Monumento a la Revolución"

The political and military situation in the years after the independence were not totally at rest. Both internal and external struggles kept arising.There was a “peaceful” period in wich Porfirio Diaz took presidency, embarking on a program of “modernisation” but “rural peasants suffered the most under under his rule”.

The regime confiscated large sections of land and gave ownership of more than 27.5 million hectares to foreign companies. By 1894, one out of every five acres of Mexican land was owned by foreign interest. Also wealthy families possessed large lands.

Porfirio´s “Dictatorship” ended in 1910 with an emerging revolution. The movement finished seven years later with amendments to our Constitution adressing foreign ownership of resources, labour codes and the role of the Roman Catholic Church in education and land reform. Mexico also recovered its “free” municipalities, “The Republic will be integrated by states and the states will be integrated by municipalities.” (Enciclopedia de los Municipios de México, Querétaro, 2005: 15)

“The municipality is suposed to be “the closest form of government to citizens”, or “the first of many links in a large chain which exist between mexican people and the state” (Gob. Mpal. , Plan Mpal. de Desarrollo, 2006: 11)

La integración social obtenida como fruto de la Revolución Mexicana de 1910, devolvió a México sus Ayuntamientos libres y este es mérito propio de D. Venustiano Carranza, pues de él partieron todas las realizaciones sociales al encarnar la voluntad y la decisión de la Patria frente a su generación y a las generaciones futuras. (Enciclopedia de los Municipios de México, Querétaro, 2005: 14)



During the 50’s, the government sought ways to re-activate the economy which had been slowing and the construction industry was thus incentivated.

The collaboration between the private sector and the government in the production of social housing in mexico goes back to the 50´s when several housing projects were built through the government’s social security institution. (García Peralta Beatriz, Privatisierte Wohnbauförderung, das Verhältnis von Staat und Privaten bei der Beschaffung von Wohnraum in Mexiko Stadt, tec21, 36/2003:16)

Architect Mario Pani was one of the architects building government-financed projects which included the “multifamiliares” which are inspired in LeCorbusier model of 1000hab./ha.

The architect proposed one of his projects in a lot of 40’000 m2, in which the government had allready estimated the possibility of building 200 housing units o the base of a fixed budget.
On that project he well respected the budget for 200 homes, but instead built 1080 housing units with several different layouts, in 12 buildings.

"The first model of high density housing in the Country"

Multifamiliar Miguel Alemán Mario Pani 1947

The concept was to create a “City in the City”... Mixed use provided housing with public, recreational spaces and businesses on the ground levels.

“If Mexico City were completely built with this model, it would be five times smaller, yet 80% of it´s surface would be open, green spaces...” arq074_03.asp
Some of Mario Pani’s buildings did not survive the earthquake in 1985, after which many of the constructive norms have turned stricter.

Some of his models still serve today as an example of the achievements of a modern movement, yet the solution to the problem of social housing had not yet been found...


In the year 1963 the government forced private banks to make part of their capital available to the public for housing financing, this meant an end to leased-housing projects being built on behalf of the government. Instead, a few private firms were established and built with this money housing.
This ‘laissez faire’ attitude was supposed to promote a free market and competition but in reality homes were not being built for the lower-class, they were all too expensive for the poor to buy. The state gave control of the housing construction and administration to the private sector and the private sector dismissed the lower income class.

These were the grounds on which people began to solve their needs in building illegally. Today, 60 % of built homes in Mexico City are located in so-called “Colonias Populares” they are illegally built on both private and public lands and mostly through self-help building.

Another 20 % of built homes in Mexico City are “casas de interés social”, those are the ones being built by the big enterprises and which are sold to their owners through banking funds which the government administers.

By adding these two percentages, we may accept that 80 % of the population living today in Mexico City, live either in «Colonias Populares» or “Casas de Interés Social.


In the beggining of the 20th Century 80% of mexico’s population lived in “rural” areas but by the turn of the Century, the situation had reversed completely, with almost of it´s population living in urban areas.

The working class had established its presence in both large and extended areas of the cities, though with a lack of services and quality conditions which the previously existing centers allready offered...”the city was being transformed into a city of masses”. ( date of consultation: 27-Jan-2007)

“...there a division between groups of people, those who can buy a house with their own capital,
those who do not have enough capital to buy their own home but have access to financing
through public or private programs, those who become support from INFONAVIT, or ISSTE (the working class) and finally, those who cannot afford legal access to housing and that’s were we find the mayority.” ( Viviane Brachet-Márquez -YR- El Estado benefactor mexicano: nacimiento, auge y declive)


Through self-help thousands of houses in Mexico City are built every year. Many of the ecological, social and economical consequences which these neighborhoods bring have not yet been studied.
Prof. Eckhardt Ribbeck from the Technical University in Stuttgart explains:

The failures of the system around social housing are fought back through the private, illegal construction of houses. As an opposite model, they suit the individual needs and possibilities of eachfamily, both through their form and phased building which makes each house unique.

“Die defizite des staatlichen vorgehens werden durch unkoordinierte Privataktionen und illegale Bauten ausgeglichen; als Gegenmodell entsprechen sie in Wohnform und Wohnökonomie den individuellen Vorstellungen und Möglichkeiten” (


“Das Erfolgsrezept der irregulären Bodenhändler ist denkbar einfach: ein schematisch vorgegebenes Siedlungsraster einerseits und individuelle Baufreiheit andererseits. Eine räumliche Ordnung, die sukzessive nachgebessert werden kann, und die Freiheit zu bauen, wann und wie man will – das sind die elementaren Zutaten einer ‘modernen Spontansiedlung’.” (


During the 90’s, production of social housing for workers has been carried out with the active participation of private investment companies. (Esquivel, Maya Cervantes, 2005 pg.1,9)

Even as the state tries exerting an influence on the production of social housing, a clientelistic promotion system has made the market dependent on large financial and construction firms.

A few real estate firms monopolize the market and the funds. They build huge housing complexes outside the city with the money from employees contributions which are taken automatically from their salary. (Peralta, 2003 pg 16-17)

But the houses these companies build are missing all types of infrastructure and they are too expensive for the lower income class which do not meet financing criteria.

The land where such settlements are being built is usually found outside the city, travel times to work of three or more hours are becoming the norm. (Peralta, 2003 pg 16-17)

“the state´s housing policy had prioritized economic objectives. In the last 20 years there has been a progressive abandonment of the social dimension in the production of housing and of the state´s actions, which is now immersed in the dynamics of a market based on purely economic reasons” (Villavicencio and Santiago, 2001, pg. 442)

Construction companies are now buying the land, building the houses, promoting them and selling them and as of lately they even are offering the financing mechanisms with the official support of the government.


Towards the mid 20th Century, many centers of the Colonial/ Historical cities began to experience deterioration, of which many still have to recuperate. In the case of Querétaro there is both; some parts of downtown are fully recuperated, while others remain in stagnation.

“The urban dynamics which follow a city’s development tend to intensify with time, affecting negatively their central origins, people start moving to the suburbs, leaving empty and unused spaces. This can be the first sign of the path leading to economic, social and environmental deterioration, as well as stagnation and loss of the cultural value of the historical center.” Granados Bottello, “Analisis Y Antecedentes De Unidades Basicas De Vivienda Rural”, 2005:7

Suburban areas began to be seen as the alternative way to achieve house ownership, attracting the masses. This is why many of the cities, including Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, experienced huge suburban growths in the second half of the 20th Century.

The revitalization of historical city centers as an urban development policy has been only recently adopted in some of the cities.


The collective use of casonas or patio houses were the response of the peoples housing needs under the new conditions of that time, those homes allowed many combinations and even if the shared use of sanitary services by many users was a problem, many such homes are still being used in this manner today.

All of these homes retain some the finest qualities which many of the newer social housing typologies do not possess; their most valuable asset is their location in the city centers, this provides them with quick access to many of the services which are concentrated in the area.

Today, people think that the clearest expressions of social housing are found on the peripherical growths of the city, yet because of the transformations occured in the city centers, it is there were we find the most examples of mixed use, flexibility and transformations in relationship to the expressions of social housing in history.

“Actualmente se piensa que las más claras expresiones de la producción social del espacio habitable se encuentran en los crecimientos periféricos; sin embargo, la suma de las distintas transformaciones tipológicas que han ocurrido en los edificios que podemos clasificar como palacetes y casas señoriales de nuestros centros históricos ya habían producido, en un pasado no muy lejano, lo queconocemos en los distintos países latinoamericanos como conventillos, vecindades, mesones, ciudadelas, etcétera, edificios que muestran un proceso de transformación a cargo de sus propios ocupantes aún más intenso que lo producido por los hacedores de las periferias. Esto lo podemos ejemplificar con las múltiples formas de transformación al interior de los viejos edificios, consistentes en subdivisiones verticales del espacio habitable para ampliar la superficie aprovechable de las unidades de vivienda con las llamadas barbacoas cubanas o los tapancos mexicanos, y los añadidos hacia espacios colectivos llamados ampliaciones en Cuba o nuevas, pero precarias viviendas, conocidas como cuartos de azotea en México. Estas lecciones constatan el rol desempeñado por la producción social del hábitat en la transformación y uso de los centros antiguos, legitimándolas como parte inexcluible de su historia.” (


In the following chapters we aim to learn about the existing organizational, and urban processes, as well the existing architectural design typologies of Housing in Queretaro's. We analyze the parts being played by the players and their influence on the quality of social housing.

We then focus on two areas of the city; on the one part we analyze the city center which serve as an example of sustainable development from our point of view. After doing so, we focus on one largely extended part of the city in the northwest suburbs and its housing typologies.



In the first part of this chapter we focus on two of the main-role players who are directly involved in the development of quality in social housing in Mexico. We will first analyse the government and the corresponding institutions, funds and programs. Then, we analyse some of the non-profit organizations which promote alternative ways in the production of social housing. In the second part of this chapter we focus on understanding the organizational process of the two main forms of the production of social housing: informal housing and developer driven mass housing. To understand the process of the informal settlements and the developer-driven mass housing we will mostly describe examples situated in and around Mexico City, which represent a paradigm of an urban condition. The authors Jose Castillo and Prof. Eckhart Ribbeck have been doing a lot of research on this topic and were an important literary source for our study.

The following aspects are described during the analysis of the two processes:

  • General information and the context
  • Actors involved in the process and their roles
  • Financing strategies
  • Positive and negative aspects
  • Conclusions



The right to adequate housing for every citizen is recognized by the Constitution of Mexico. However housing policies are still far from creating the conditions to enable the entire population to realize their right to adequate housing. Adequate distribution of land and security of possession, availability of services and infrastructure, maintenance possibilities, public programs, investments and policies. 64


Formal financial institutions have not been the main source of credit for the poor. Generally, the people willing to build turn to informal sources such as credit from friends, family, direct cash loans, or payment in kind of credit purchases, saving and credit organizations. 65


INFONAVIT (The National Workers Housing Fund Institute) and FOVISSSTE (Housing Fund of Social Security and Services Institute for State Workers) are public institutions created in the early 1970s’ to manage social saving funds (contributions from employers to employees accounts). These institutions fund housing construction and grant individual mortgage loans to workers for buying a house. 66

These institutions only assist less than one-fifth of workers who have the right to request funding. Workers form the informal market are not entitled to such a fund and must look for other ways to afford building a house.

64 The complete texts of the constitutional articles on housing rights may be consulted on the web site
65 United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, (UNCHS-Habitat). (2005) Land Tenure, Housing Rights and Gender in Mexico. p. 2-14
66 Noriega, Carlos. (2002). Medición de los subsidios explícitos e implícitos en el sector de la vivienda en Mexico. Low Income Housing: Issues and
Options. Vol. II, Report No. 22534-ME, Washington, D.C., p.14-16


FONHAPO (Popular Housing Fund) was created in 1981 as a trust of BANOBRAS (National Bank of Public Works and Services) to assist workers in the informal sector and poor people not served by the public institutions. These groups account more than 60 percent of the total population of Mexico. At that time, FONHAPO operated with fiscal revenues and funds from the World Bank, extending loans to social organizations (group loans) and public agencies for the upgrading and self-building of houses in progressive developments, with subsidies of up to 50 percent. However, since the early 1990s’ it has suffered drastic budget reductions and has now been completely restructured, favoring individual loans. SEDESOL (This institution is now attached to Ministry of Social Development). 67


The 2001-2006 Sector Housing Program is an instrument for the coordination of public actions of federal, state and municipal government institutions, as well as activities of groups and individuals related to housing issues. Its objectives include promoting and establishing policies and programs to purchase, build, lease or improve housing, with the participation of the three levels of the government and civil society. 68

In July 2001, two agencies were created to manage the Sector Housing Program: CONAFOVI (National Housing Promotion Commission) and CONAVI (Housing Council). is in charge of coordinating the efforts and actions of federal public entities related to the housing sector and promoting the active participation of state and municipal bodies. The idea is also to have a broader vision that would allow the combination of the housing issue with environmental and urban development policies. 69

67 SEDESOL (2001b). Programa Nacional de Desarrollo Urbano y Ordenación del Territorio 2001-2006, México.
68 Noriega, Carlos. (2002). Medición de los subsidios explícitos e implícitos en el sector de la vivienda. En Mexico Low Income Housing: Issues and Options. Vol. II, Report No. 22534-ME, Washington, D.C., p.14-16

Currently, progressive housing programs incorporate a new approach aimed at promoting and creating saving funds called VIVAH (Progressive Housing Savings and Subsidies Program). VIVAH (now Tu Casa) was created and operated by SEDESOL. It is based on the concept of shared responsability between federal, state, and municipal governments. targets people living in extreme poverty with progressive housing projects (new or extension), including basic drainage, drinking water and electricity. 70

PROSAVI (Special Housing Credit and Subsidy Program) was launched in 1996 in Mexico City and in 1999 it began operating in the rest of the country. It is a program implemented by FOVI (Fund for Bank Operations and Housing Funds Ope). Families are granted with a direct subsidy (of up to 20 percent of the value of the house). offers finished houses at credit rates lower than those existing on the market. To obtain the subsidy, applicants must give a down payment of 7.5% of the value of the house, which is sometimes supported with loans granted by local authorities.

Participating housing institutions belong to different sectors of the public administration, making coordination difficult. FOVI (Fund for Bank Operations and Housing Funds Ope) is administrated by the Bank of Mexico; INFONAVIT(National Workers Housing Fund Institute) is an autonomous body; FOVISSSTE (Housing Fund of the Social Security and Services Institute for State Workers) depends on the health sector; FONHAPO, previously a trust of BANOBRAS (National Bank for Public Works and Services), is now part of SEDESOL. From 2001 on, initial attempts to redefine housing programs and coordinate them were carried out by a new institution, the National Housing Promotion
Commission (CONAFOVI). 71

70 United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, (UNCHS-Habitat). (2005) Land Tenure, Housing Rights and Gender in Mexico. p. 60-62
71 Villavicencio, Judith (1995). La política habitacional y las alternativas de la vivienda para los pobres en la ciudad de México. Sociológica No. 29, pp. 85-101.


Housing policies are still far from creating the conditions to enable the entire population to realize their right to adequate housing. Formal financial institutions have not been the main source of credit for the poor. Nowadays the aspiration to make that connection between the social and the architectural is all but an illusion. Planning and architecture seem irrelevant disciplines in the production of housing.

The government should care about the appropriate distribution of land. It is necessary to utilize optimally the urban land and it should be treated as a resource. On the other hand it is extremely important to promote redevelopment and redensification of existing urban areas.

Progressive housing programs launched by the government are exemplary models that optimize resources of people.

CONAVI has become a forum for the exchange of opinions and operate as a consultative and advisory body. Its council consists of representatives of the public sector, civil society groups, professional associations, and the universities, all of which work on housing issues.


A wide array of social organizations is involved in the movement for land and housing in Latin America. During the 1960s’ several NGOs were born, specifically focused on urban and housing problems within a social development perspective. The Housing Cooperative (COPEVI) was followed by the Centre for Housing and Urban Studies

(CENVI), House and City and the Social Housing Promotion Fund (FOSOVI). They became actively involved in urban popular movements in the 1970s and the 1980s. And in particular in the 1990s’, a decade of serious economic and political crises. 72

Their goal is to achieve exemplary models through local actions, they are not only focused in the construction of living spaces; they also address many other aspects of their members’ social, cultural and urban lives. They organize around supply, health, education, security, family planning, and gender issues. act politically to promote and defend their interests and their place in the city. More highly evolved groups promote ecological awareness and cultural creativity and they find the way to promote and share their experience. 73


Non profit organizations like Funds and Housing Cooperatives work with a social development perspective. They are supporting and supervising what is happening with the money. Many times it is not only the money but more - namely the urbanism and the architecture – they are developing as well. They promote integration, cooperation, promotion of social and environmental issues. are supporting families of the low income sector, giving them access to financing with small saving, through cooperatives and micro credit institutions and NGO’s.

72 The NGO’s have been part of the Habitat International Coalition.
73 United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, (UNCHS-Habitat). (2005) Land Tenure, Housing Rights and Gender in Mexico. p. 33




The phenomenon of informal urbanization has become a very important element in the production of cities in developing countries. Mexico City represents the paradigm of such an urban condition: an area of 1,400 sq km contains a population of 18.5 million inhabitants, approximately 60 percent of whom live in settlements that began through some mode of informal urbanization. 74



Informal land sellers and speculators subdivide huge strips of land and sell the lots to low income families. The plots sold by the informal land sellers are not provided with infrastructure.


During the process people make enormous efforts and mobilization to obtain an adequate status of their house. This process may take several decades until they are provided with basic infrastructure. The key figures during the self building are the “Albañiles”, which are the masons (craftsman) that have a certain experience and knowledge in construction.

74 Ward, Peter M. (1982): Mexico City. Rev. 2nd ed.: World cities series. Chichester: New York: J.Wiley, 1988, and Connoly, Priscilla “Uncontrolled Settlements ans Self-Built: What kind of Solution? The Mexico City Case”. in Help Housing: A Critique, ed. Peter Ward, 141-74. London: Mansell; Bronx.

Houses of informal settlements are not built as complete houses, but rather they pass through several construction phases.


The first generation of informal settlements are characterized by having precarious houses with no services. Settlers must fight against threats and discrimination to which they are subjected by the city administration and established urban population (neighbors).


Even after one generation many houses are neither plastered nor colored, many upper stories remain construction sites. The semi-consolidated informal settlements give poor families an opportunity to live a normal life. Housing conditions are not good but at least tolerable.

Daily needs are more or less provided, although on a low level. Prices and rents are still relatively low because the neighborhood is not yet been invaded by investors and speculators.


Consolidation of a “colonia popular” is also a question of the overall economic situation. Nobody can tell what direction urban development will take in the future." 75

In Mexico City spontaneous settlements developed in the ‘60s and ‘70s, have achieved a semi-consolidated status. On one hand multi-story buildings, more or less complete infrastructure, commercial activities and basic public services. On the other hand high number of unsolved problems signs of stagnation. The consolidation ends when they acquire their legal property titles. 75

75 Ribbeck, Eckhart (2002): Die Informelle Moderne - spontanes Bauen in Mexiko Stadt, awf-Verlag, u. Städtebau-Institut (SI)


These are the most common financing strategies of families from the informal sector. 76

- Rotating saving and credit associations. These are informal associations of rotating saving and credit, in which members meet regularly to contribute a pre-determinated amount of money.
- Solidarity groups. are groups of three to 10 people, based on the system of the Graneen Bank of Bangladesh.
- Community banks. A society of 20-50 neighbors that obtains a loan and maintains a savings rate.
- Savings and credit cooperatives. These resources primarily come from the saving of the associates, who define their own policies.
- Tanda-Loan system: It is based on a savings method, which is a Mexican tradition, common among low-income groups called “Tanda”. In this case, a group of seveal people agrees to save a specific amount of money over terms according to their income; the number of terms equals the number of participants. At the end of each term, one participant collects the total sum saved during the entire period. That participant continues paying his/her part until all members collect their savings - usually without problems because payments are affordable to participants. 77

76 United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, (UNCHS-Habitat). (2005) Land Tenure, Housing Rights and Gender in Mexico. p. 22
77 United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, (UNCHS-Habitat).
op.cit.: p. 85-87



The houses of low-income population serve not only for living, but also for economic livelihood, e. g. street trade, rudimentary shops, well equipped enterprises, small factories. 78 "Living in an incomplete house is absolutely normal."

The intense combination of living and working is one of the most important characteristics of informal building. Commercial activities are enriched by weekly markets that sell food and a large variety of products along the main streets (lack of a center) blocking the traffic.

In consolidated informal settlements commercial activities are already within a legal framework. It generates formal employment and employers are obligated to pay taxes. The most common commercial shops are: barbers, hairdresser, restaurants and bars, fitness, beauty salons, music and video shops, language and computer academics, dancing school, and so on. An important source is renting rooms to friends and relatives.



Through the rapid metropolization and urban growth, these areas are more and more incorporated to the city. When spontaneous densification and verticalization advances, many houses rarely have courtyards anymore, instead narrow corridors and light shafts. It has a profound impact on the urban structure, the traffic problems, pollution and excessive use of the land.

78 Ribbeck, Eckhart (2002): Die Informelle Moderne - spontanes Bauen in Mexiko Stadt, awf-Verlag, u. Städtebau-Institut (SI)


The founding generation slowly withdraws and leaves the houses to their children, who are no longer as closely and emotionally bound to their neighborhood as their parents, even though they were born and raised there. Many young people would like to move to another city district as soon as the economic situation permits. 79


In young informal settlements there are no public facilities for years, therefore inhabitants depend on neighboring areas which implies large distances and increases costs and time of transport. Problems are often found among adolescents, because there are no local recreational
facilities or sports fields.

The lack of public services is partially compensated by private services. Many residents do not have health insurance because they work in the informal sector. Public clinics are generally far away and crowded.

For this purpose, numerous pharmacies, which also sell powerful medication without prescription, offer their service as do health centers and small private clinics that treat the common health problems of the “colonias populares” or low income neighborhoods.


Informal urbanization involves a series of decisions, strategies, and rules. An certain amount of planning is required. Dwellers use sophisticated and sometimes more effective devices to allocate resources, organize space and resolve social and economic needs. This form of planning develops over time together with the physical and social transformation of space.

79 Ribbeck, Eckhart (2002): Die Informelle Moderne - spontanes Bauen in Mexiko Stadt, awf-Verlag, u. Städtebau-Institut (SI)




In the past five years, for the first time in decades, informal growth in Mexico City is being challenged through a more accelerated pace of formal housing production. A series of changes in housing finance and construction have been implemented since the early 1990s allowing on the one hand more substantial land appropriations (of land that used to be communal), and on the other more effective policy for housing delivery. 80


Private developers and huge construction companies.

Their role is to deliver housing for the masses with cost-effectiveness and satisfaction of the client. The size of these developments is increasing as it becomes easier to purchase communal owned land, meaning that larger parcels can be pulled together and urbanized. Some of these planed neighborhoods in Mexico City reach 13,000 housing units done by a single developer (and in many cases designed by a single architect). 81


In the decade of the 1990’s the Inter-American Development Bank began the promotion of the direct housing subsidy concept, corresponding to strategies of presumed efficiency. The direct subsidy intends to avoid the subsidy located in segmentated forms (credit from friends, family, direct cash loans, or payment in kind of credit purchases, saving and credit organizations). In this way, the configuration of this new markets is made for the benefit of the construction companies. 82

80 Castillo Jose (2007): Mexico City’s paradoxical dialects of growth,
in: Domus No. 899 p.57
81 Ibid
82 Habitat International Coalition (2005): From marginality to citizenship,
41 cases of social production and management of habitat. Habitat
International Coalition-Regional Office for Latin America (HIL-AL):
Mexico City.



From the beginning on the client obtains legal land property titles.They have all basic services like: drinking water, electricity, streets and sewage.


The Quality of the materials doesn not often fulfill the minimum standards. The houses are finished with protective coats in roofs and exterior walls and therefor last longer. In unfinished houses of informal settlements, materials like steel and brick tend to degrade with time if they are not protected.


It promotes the economy, generates work (legal sources of work).


Reduction construction time, costs, materials and rent machinery. The waste of material during the process is reduced.


Private companies defines and controls the production process. The minimum plot size with basic infrastructure and progressive housing programs are imposed. size and the impact of this developments has not been controlled by the state.

Programs simplify the process. Some of these planed neighborhoods reach thousands of houses done by a single developer and in many cases designed by a single architect.

Large scale interventions with a limited amount of planning. Repetitive rows of houses that control strictly urban processes. No planning for educational, commercial or social infrastructure. This typology leaves no room for progressive growth.


Planning is limited to the layout of the street grid, and the maximization of saleable land through the repetition of a very limited number of housing typologies is the norm. There is no zoning, no planning for educational, commercial or social infrastructure, very limited areas of public space, no integration with city transport networks, but most importantly, there is no room for growth and transformation in the neighborhood. This type of urbanization is destined to the simple construction of housing.



City plans have normally benefited the middle class and organized sector (developer). Housing programs are mainly focused in providing the population with new houses. The people should have the option to purchase, build, repair, extend or improve their dwellings.

The government has the capacity to manage the better use of the land and to use it as a resource. Flexibility of land use in response to changes resulting from growing.


They are supporting and supervising what is happening with the money. Many times it is not only the money but more - namely the urbanism and the architecture – they are developing as well. They promote integration, cooperation, promotion of social and environmental


A significant amount of employment finds it´s place through the informal sector, in small and micro or individual enterprises. Also in the construction sector informal building has efficiently supplied the people with flexible typologies based on a traditional courtyard house. We should learn from informality and use it as a constructive urban condition. We should coordinate frameworks
and tools to deal with this urban phenomenon.


Inside a legal and professional framework this type of urbanization is destined to the simple construction of housing. There is no zoning, no planning for educational, commercial or social infrastructure, very limited areas of public space, no integration with the metropolitan transport networks. The most critical point of this typologies is that there is no room for growth and transformation.





The goal of this chapter is to gather knowledge from the two different parts of Querétaro in which we are interested. The first one is the city center and the second is the northwest suburban area.

The methodology is to read both parts of the city. In both cases we will talk about the urban rules which characterize the structure of the physical space. The next part of this reading is to identify in both cases the different uses, infrastructure and services which complement and conform the space.


Corregidora street and San Francisco Church in the City Center.

Today the city Querétaro is not only the capital of the state of Querétaro, it’s also an important center of industrial activity. While the city has sprawled outward in recent years in response to its growth, in the central part of the city the colonial flavor has been preserved. The historic Center has over 460 years of history and it is characterized for its colonial architecture and its beauty.




Plaza de Armas is a beautiful square surrounded by great baroque buildings, notably Casa de la Corregidora, seat of the State government, and Casa de EcalaCity. The municipality has also prioritized cleanliness, the cobblestone streets are practically spotless.

The planning of the new cities during the colonial period followed a simple model: The basic structure was formed by a street grid similar to a chessboard. Between the single streets numerous mostly rectangular building blocks were settled. In the middle of the city some of these building blocks were deleted of the plan or reduced in their size in order to create an open space around which the most important buildings were arranged: the church, the city hall, the houses of the merchants and the richest colonists.

In Mexico, where a large population was to be converted catholic, a special large yard called atrio was lay out in front of the church. Along the church side a smaller chapel was designed called “capilla de indios”. On holidays this place was used to hold service for indians in the open air. Today the churches are open to the public and the old “atrios” became plazas.

This design structure lead to an standard type city which was characterized by the following traits: 64

A two-dimensional pattern the so-called “traza” was layed out. A design of a third dimension was missing. In the American cities the basic structure formed by the streets and buildings often took exaggerated large sizes, while the individual buildings were small and modest. Usually the houses had only one floor.

The city had to be able to grow, and no one knew ahead of time, how large it would become. Accordingly to its grid structure the city could be expanded toward all directions and be extended depending on its necessity. outer boundary of the city was only provisional.

In Europe, specially in Spain, there was a very clear contrasts between the city and its surrounding landscape. the colonies, due to the flexibility of the cities boundaries and also due to the many extended free areas within the city - as many of the houses of the colonists contained a courtyard, and the large free area in the city center called “atrios”(plazas) - that was not the case.

Due to the regularity of the grid structure of the cities, which was usually planned by the Spanish bureaucrats from the green table, it was not possible to adapt the city to its respective landscape and environment. So the Latin American cities are by far more simply designed than the medieval cities in Europe, whose structure often depended on the natural environment and therefore could be substantially more complex. In the course of the time some cities that originally only had some dozens of house blocks became metropolises maintaining their original structure. This fixed structure designed in the 16th Century was still qualified for the town development in 19th Century. Actually it still corresponds in many aspects to today’s town development.

64 Benevolo Leonardo (2000): Die Geschichte der Stadt: Campus Verlag Frankfurt/New York: p. 674-687.



In the picture Guerrero Street, many houses turned to offices, other ones combine housing and commercial use. The street level is most of the time available for shops, from the first level on are used as apartments.


The city center has proven to be a model that can be adapted to different uses. The traditional “patio houses” of the city center have been adapted to new uses like: public buildings, libraries, schools, restaurants, stores, etc


The city center is pedestrian friendly due to the walking distances to work, school, shopping, etc. and the many pedestrian streets called “Andadores” connect the different plazas.


The city center has excellent connections to the rest of the city. The types of public transport are buses and taxis. potential of public transport is not fully used. increase of motor transport in the city center has caused traffic problems difficult to control. Narrow streets was a typical rule of warm weather cities, The guidelines of “Felipe II” for the urban structure of colonial cities are described in detail in the colonial period of the history framework chapter.


Density of economic, cultural and recreational activities, dense building typologies, with patios inside. Between dense building typologies we find open spaces like gardens, parks and plazas.

Andador Juarez

The narrow streets of the City Center make transportation by car very slow. There are few Parking Places. A lot of people choose to use the public transport or walk. Pedestrian streets called “andadores” connect the different Plazas. On the left is the view of the Santa Clara Church. Churches are visible from many spots.



Urban development requires on the one hand an adequate planning in terms of city growth. On the other hand the maintenance should be offered regularly. The municipality has prioritized cleanness and the restoration of old buildings.


The historical city is capable of generating an incredible amount of economic activities. It has become an important source of employment due to the fact that service companies, government and corporate offices have been established here. Other commercial activities established in the city are small shops, restaurants, street markets.


Concentration of cultural activities like art galleries, museums, theaters, art exhibitions, music performances and movie festivals. 


Cafes and restaurants, which can be enjoyed during all the year in the moderate climate. These shops bring life to the spacious plazas and wide “Andadores” (pedestrian streets).

The city center has several parks; that provide recreational facilities. The parks offer family integration, green areas, children playground and sports fields.

Jardín de la Corregidora
This plaza is a very quiet one with only a few patio restaurants and cafes. The monument at the center is honoring, Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez who was a War of Independence hero, behind the statue is the “Arbol de la Amistad” (Tree of the Friendship), planted in 1977; it simbolizes hospitality for the visitors.



The historical city has been capable to adapt itself to different uses: housing, economic activities, it generates of employment, incredible amount of services and community facilities like: museums, theaters, libraries, hospitals, school, plazas, gardens, parks, stores and restaurants.

The “centro historico” is exemplary because of the way it has adapted itself through the history. Its morphology has been adapted to different uses during different periods.

The city center is quite pedestrian friendly due to the short distances for those who live and work in the quarter; Their children can go to school, there are services at hand and the many pedestrian streets called “Andadores” connect the different plazas. This makes the walking experience even more pleasant.



Public building like churches in this case are already being used and still under construction.
A regular behavior of suburban areas.

The northwest suburban area of the city has sprawled outward in recent years, mainly stimulated by the extended industrial development in the north of the city. Today part of the industrial area which once was in the outskirts of the city is part of the urban agglomeration.

Mexico City and Querétaro are located directly on the highway that connects the central region of Mexico with the U.S. (Panamerican Highway). The industrial area is located to the north of the city.
It is a similar model to that which appeared first in Mexico Cit where the north and west parts of the city are characterized by a combination of large developments of industry and low income housing settlements.







The urban pattern used in the informal settlements is the following: The territory of informal neighborhoods is organized in a regular grid which usually consists of orthogonal blocks of approximately 150 x 40 meters delimited by avenues not wider than 45 meters. The plots are arranged in accordance to the topography as well.

The plots of the different neighborhoods vary according to different developers and to the mode of occupation. Typologies from illegal sale neighborhoods are much more organized and regular than the ones from illegal occupation of land. Individual private lots are roughly 150 square meters.



Urban pattern rules are characterized by large-scale interventions. The dimensions of the grid are very similar to the pattern used in informal settlements. Planning is limited to the layout of the street grid, and the maximization of saleable land through the repetition of a very limited number of housing typologies is the norm.




The areas of public space are very limited. The existent public spaces sometimes improvised or in bad condition.


The occupation and transformation of a street into a space of public interaction is a natural process. The success of the use of a public space is determined by its flexibility and its location. Some of the so-called planned public-spaces fail to match the peoples needs and are not used by the people. In the case of this picture the plaza is located between between two big avenues. For pedestrians is not easy to reach the place.




In many informal low income neighborhoods there are no public facilities for years, therefore inhabitants depend on neighboring areas which implies large distances and increases costs and time of transport. Problems are often found among adolescents, because there are no local recreational facilities or sports fields.




In some areas of Querétaro the traffic problems are almost unbearable. Efficient planning of the public transport and traffic does exist in a few areas. However, the large potential of public transport is not fully used, as an abundancy of congested streets show.

This city decided to privatize its public transit system: that’s why there are at least 3 different bus companies competing for customers, as shown in the picture above. Sometimes this creates rather hazardous conditions for pedestrians as buses are trying to pick up customers with their sometimes rudimentary and aggressive ways of driving in the road.




The intense combination of living and working is one of the most important characteristics of “colonias populares” or low income neighborhoods.



Why is the “single family house” the preferred solution for the masses? Aren’t there other, by far more adequate responses to the need of the people that ensure a better quality and a more sustainable development of the city?

Demography: The accelerated population growth and the immigration of people from the countryside into the cities. Today mostly young people live in Mexican cities.

Price of Land: There is so much free space and land in Mexico, the price of the land in the peripheries of the city is comparably low. People can’t effort to rent an apartment. They prefer to have something very basic and develop it on their own over the time.

The people who live in these quarters develop a sense of identity through this typology: they need space to grow and people care more for their private property and their neighborhood as well. People are identified with their home, which ensures a satisfactory social status.


There is a need of qualified urban planning for an urban integration and consolidation of the suburbs.
he future conditions of the suburbs of will depend in good part on planners’ and architects’ abilities to acknowledge the peoples needs and optimize the resources of the private and public sector. They should learn from informality and use as a constructive urban condition. He should coordinate frameworks and tools to deal with this urban phenomenon.



We have learned from the compact model which is the City Center. Short distances, patio houses and plazas, and many other characteristics have shown us the true capabilities and benefits which it offers.

Suburban developments should provide their dwellers with:

Appropriate technical infrastructure,
Integration with city transport network,
Public and semipublic spaces,
Employment opportunities, commercial space and office space.


The following pages contain mainly Images which are descriptive of different concepts which we have  mentioned in out Thesis.










The quality of social housing in the city of Querétaro results from two different processes of construction.

Our thesis focused on studying both processes of housing production from three different perspectives: the organizational, the urban and the architectural areas of social housing.

We furthermore studied the history of the development of social housing in Mexico which also includes the history of the development of those two methods of housing production.

From an organizational perspective, we learned that different typologies are the result of different organizational models, each of the models currently in use have proven unique capabilities.

Each model follows a different approach yet both of them have clearly positive and negative aspects which should be considered if we want to learn from these.

Two of the most important qualities which social housing must offer are an affordable cost and a strategical location of the dwellings. The choice of the land must be appropriate.

One of the biggest flaws in both processes is the location which usually has economic reasons but this makes their existence more difficult in the future.

Even if land is cheaper in distant locations, there are other costs which increase drastically with a remote location. These costs include loss of time and transportation, which in the end turn to be much more expensive than the cost of building in more central locations.

In relation to the cost of social housing we have reached the following conclusions: self-help building has proven to be one of the cheapest ways of construction, yet many of the costs can be drastically reduced by industrializing specific parts of the process.


Informality appears in the economy sector: A big number of employment in the city is in the informal sector, in small and micro enterprises. Also in the construction sector informal building has efficiently supplied the people with flexible typologies based on a traditional courtyard house. The houses of low-income population serve not only for living, but also for economic livelihood. We should learn from informality and use it as a constructive urban condition and coordinate frameworks and tools to deal with this urban phenomenon.


This type of urbanization is destined to the simple construction of housing. There is no zoning, no planning for educational, commercial or social infrastructure, very limited areas of public space, no integration with the metropolitan transport networks. The most critical point of this typologies is that there is no room for growth and transformation. projects in which developers are involved (developer driven mass housing) aren’t sustainable models as we already previously said. Developers are capable to improve the quality. They have the capital that the government doesn’t have and they work within a legal and a professional framework.


1. Choose the land.
2. Generate a project.
3. Spend the capital.
4. Sell.
5. Recover of investment.
note: (the people are never
brought together)


1. Don t choose the land
2. Buy the land.
3. Self build a house in phases
4. Wait for the response from the government that provides with services and infrastructure



1. Choose the appropriate land
2. Generate a project
3. Bring the people together and sell the project.
5. Financing with small savings through cooperatives and NGO’s
6. Start building
7. Recover the investment


There is a need of qualified urban planning for an urban integration and consolidation of the suburbs of Queretaro. The future conditions of the suburbs of will depend in good part on planners’ and architects’ abilities to acknowledge the peoples needs. Optimize the resources of the people, the private and the public sector.


From history we have learned that the qualities which the historial downtown of Querétaro still possess are the result of a few simple rules which marked most mexican cities in the colonial period.


1 City Center. Short distances, patio houses and plazas

2 Suburban developments should provide dwellers with:

- Appropriate technical infrastructure
- Integration with city transport network
- Public and semipublic spaces
- Small industry, commercial complexes and offices


The Goal of our study is to increase the knowledge of alternative ways to improve the quality in social housing in Querétaro, while promoting a sustainable development of the city.

The results of our study will help architects and planners in their creative approach to generate better options for low income families, which in turn should improve their life quality in the suburbs.

The research focuses on finding the inherent potential of organizational, urban and architectural strategies which have been used in the production of social housing in the past. To learn more in detail about an example, we present the city center of Querétaro as an ideal urban model. In order to observe the extended growth of the city we then focus in the northwest suburb and its housing typologies.

The first part of our thesis is an introduction which briefly explains the grounds on which we build our study.

The second part is the theoretical framework of our study, which we organized in three parts: the regional, the statistical, and the historical framework. We aim to learn about relationships existing
between the regional, statistical and historical frameworks and our main topic of investigation
which is the quality of social housing in Querétaro, Mexico.

In the third part of our study we aim to learn about the existing organizational processes, as well as the urban, and architectural design typologies which circumscribe our object of investigation. We analyze the players and their influence on the quality of social housing. We then focus on two areas of the city; on the one part we analyze the city center which serves as an example of sustainable development from our point of view. After doing so, we focus on one largely extended part of the city in the northwest suburbs and its housing typologies.

The fourth and final part are the conclusions. Organizational, urban and architectural planning are some of the primary factors which will improve the quality and sustainability of social housing
in Querétaro, Mexico. In order to achieve this, architects should get involved in the process of planning and building to help optimize the use of social, ecological and economical resources.