(Summer ’16) Francis Goyes, G
Francis Goyes (G, Urban Studies and Planning)
Francis will spend the summer in her home city of Quito, where she will be collaborating with the Municipality of Quito’s Secretary of Territory, Habitat, and Housing to conduct field research for her thesis regarding informal housing upgrading programs and policy. She plans to conduct a mixed-methods approach of surveys, stakeholder interviews, participatory urban mapping, and GIS analysis to gather quantitative and qualitative data of informal communities in the city. The ultimate goal of this project will be to present the Secretary with an evaluation of current informal housing upgrading programs and present recommendations for future housing policy in the city.
Check back for her updates!
Back in my beautiful apartment in Cambridge, caught once again in the whirlwind of classes and theory, I have some final reflections of my summer research with the Municipality of Quito.
In the two months with the Secretary, I was able to grasp the the complexity of policy making in urban settings. It’s incredible to think of how many people with enormous expertise it takes to keep a city running smoothly. Working side by side with Municipality officials and seeing all the different projects being undertaken, from policies to regulate food trucks’ use of public spaces to the creation of thousand of affordable housing units, made me appreciate my city much more than I already did.
I’m very happy with the decision I made to focus my thesis on Quito, as I do believe the issue of informal housing is one of its most pertinent problems, yet so complex that it is often ignored by the authorities. I think my work during the summer, as well as my ongoing thesis research for the next academic year will help shine some light on what the Municipality can improve on as they draft a new regularization policy.
I’m currently taking a class at the Harvard Kennedy School on the creation of policies, and a lot of what I’m learning in it goes hand in hand with the work I did and what I found at the Municipality of Quito. My experience at the Municipality helps put into context the academic, theoretical framing I’m studying, and the theory allows me to critically think through next steps for my thesis research.
I am extremely grateful to both the Municipality of Quito and the Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center for providing me with the ability to combine my passion for equity in cities with practical experience and insightful reflections, fulfilling MIT’s mens et manus approach to superior education.
Thoughts on long-term impact
With the Housing Adviser to the Secretary and representatives of the 11 districts of Quito
I think interning at the Municipality of Quito for the summer has so far been a very positive experience for both my professional and personal growth. Although I’ve spent the majority of my lifetime thus far in Quito, I was for the most part clueless of how my City manages policy, particularly regarding urban matters. One of the most useful elements of my time has been informally and formally speaking with officials from the Secretary to understand their different roles within the Ministry, their opinion of the work the Secretary carries out, and how different processes could be improved upon.
Speaking with Ministry Officials about the various policy programs I was researching, I learned that one of the main reasons two of the three programs weren’t effective was because of bad management from various entities within the Municipality. Issues like lack of communication, overworked employees, and outsourcing jobs to consulting firms led to unforseen problems in the execution of the different programs. Furthermore, the previously high costs of regularizing houses left numerous families excluded from the programs. To increase complications, the program’s decentralization led to approved regularization papers failing to reach the families that successfully applied to the program. Finally, and also due to decentralization, each of the eleven offices within the Metropolitan district had a different procedure for storing data, creating a situation where some offices only have paper copies of regularized houses, while others have it in Excel or on other formats.
If I hadn’t been able to go to Quito and work at the Municipality this summer, the Secretary would not be aware of the multitude of issues the policies were confronted with. Given that a new policy will be written and approved in the near future, it was incredibly important to note why previous programs had failed so the new one doesn’t meet the same fate. Although this is a small part of policymaking in an urban setting, it is a very important component, as more than 70% of buildings in the City are informally built and at risk of natural hazards.
With PhD Rosa Elena Donoso, the housing advisor to the Secretary of Territory, Habitat and Housing
Policymaking in Quito
The first few weeks in the Municipality of Quito taught me I had absolutely no idea how policymaking was made in my own city. Most people working in my office (Office of Urban Planning) seemed to speak in code – they used so many abbreviations and ordinance numbers that I could not even comprehend what they were talking about. I was both impressed by the amount of knowledge public officials seemed to posses and embarrassed by my absolute ignorance. To add to my insecurities, I was having a difficult time trying to read and piece together the informal housing policies I was supposed to be studying.
Little by little though, I began understanding how the Municipality worked. With help of my office colleagues and my mentor here I started unraveling the processes each part of the Municipality is tasked with, how they interact with each other, and how policies are created for the City. I learned that the Secretary of Territory, Habitat, and Housing (STHV) is one of 12 Secretary’s under the Municipality of Quito. The role of STHV is to develop or modify policies related to issues of land, housing, potable water, and public space in the Metropolitan District of Quito.
Within the Secretary are different offices, which create policies and research for the aforementioned issues. The policies must fit within the greater plans of the Municipality, as well as follow the guidelines and pursuits mentioned in national governing plans and the Constitution. Furthermore, new or updated policies must be in response to an issue identified by the Metropolitan Council, a 21-person entity within the Municipality. Once a policy is drafted and signed by the Secretary, it is sent to the Metropolitan Council to be debated and ultimately approved or denied. I’m unsure of how many Quiteños know the process it takes for a new policy to be implemented, but being able to better understand it has been instrumental for the research I’m undertaking.
View from the office
Researching My Own Backyard
The Historic Center of Quito, UNESCO’s first World Heritage site
I can’t fully begin to describe how excited albeit fearful I am to carry out my thesis research in my own city of Quito.
I never saw Quito as anything more than home until I began my architectural studies back in 2008. Five years of studios and site analyses gave me a new lens through which to observe my surroundings. I started seeing aspects of my city I had never thought about before: the reasons for the constant traffic, public spaces and the uses people gave them, and what called out to me the most: the extreme divide between wealth and poverty, exemplified in a hundred different ways. Beautiful houses that resembled mansions next to small exposed mud-brick structures, indigenous women begging in the street while businessmen dutifully ignore them, the low-income South of Quito, entirely ignored by its Northern inhabitants.
It was these issues among others that first drew my interest towards urban planning and it was my hope of finding sustainable solutions to them that brought me to MIT’s Department of Urban Studies + Planning.
While in my first year at DUSP I was fortunate enough to participate in a variety of projects around the globe, I wanted my thesis to be centered in my home city, where I think (and hope) my research can have the greatest positive influence. For the upcoming five weeks I will be working alongside the Municipality of Quito’s Territory, Habitat, and Housing adviser to determine the specific project I will be working on for the next year. This research will serve both as my thesis and will provide the Municipality of Quito with helpful information they can use as they strive to create a more equitable city, particularly in the area of adequate housing for its 1.6 million inhabitants, particularly its most socially vulnerable members.
I look forward to learning more about my city, and to giving back if only a little after it has given me so much.