Advance in housing right or accumulation by dispossession? : how social housing is used as policy tool to promote neoliberal urban development in China and in Mexico
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Social housing is defined as the housing production supported by the public sector with the purpose of improving housing access and condition for low-income urban population. This dissertation discusses the social housing boom in China and in Mexico in 2000s and 2010s. I ask what motivates the governmental agenda to make and implement social policy for low-income populations in these two developing countries with very different political economies. Drawing on mixed-methods, this dissertation undertakes three levels of comparison. At the national level, social housing develops through different approaches in the two countries: a government-centered approach in China, and a market-centered approach in Mexico. The variations in these approaches are the result of the existing housing regime when the neoliberal transformation of housing and urban policy started in these two countries in the 1980s and 1990s. At the local level, local governments’ different roles in social housing development reflect their different urban agendas, which can be further attributed to the political and the land regimes in the two countries. Yet a common denominator of the two cases is the close alliance between the local governments with developers. Finally, at the community and household level, I argue that social housing in China and in Mexico does not represent an advance in housing rights for the low-income urban population, but rather a wave of accumulation by dispossession. I conclude that, in contrast to the post-war social housing development in advanced industrialized countries, in which the State acts as a force of de-commodification and social provider of essential services, social housing in China and in Mexico is used as a tool for the expansion of real estate and financial capital towards the urban low-income population. This leads us to rethink the nature of social policy in the neoliberal era: disguised as a form of “welfare”, it is used as a tool and venue to facilitate the advance of neoliberal projects such as financialization towards vulnerable social groups.