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Urgent changes needed to combat South American urban 'sprawl' – University of Reading

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Urgent changes needed to combat South American urban 'sprawl'

Release Date 23 September 2013

University of Reading and University of Sao Paulo research conference

South America needs urgent changes to urban planning to tackle the poverty gap and protect the environment, academics will argue at a major four-day conference in Sao Paulo starting today.

The joint-event between the University of Reading's School of Real Estate and Planning and hosts University of Sao Paulo's Escola Politecnica, will discuss how best to combat unplanned ‘urban sprawl', one of the root causes of huge social fragmentation across South America.

It will draw on the latest international research and tools in city and town planning - creating sustainable architecture; effective planning policy; robust real estate valuations; secure property rights; strong design quality standards; tight environmental standards; and more effective financial models to attract foreign and private investment.

The event will address major issues facing construction and housing programmes across South America - the most urbanised continent in the world, with 86% of the population expected to live in cities by 2030 [UN Population Division, 2011].

These include how:

  • more effective urban development can help close the poverty gap - with almost half South America's population in informal jobs, earning below the minimum wage level, with little job security, access to health and social benefits according to the International Labour Organisation (2012). Poor planning has reinforced the expansion of gated communities, fenced off from poorer areas and widespread use of private cars by the growing middle class
  • good development can improve air quality and environment - 100 million people in South American cities are exposed to pollution levels over recommended standards (Pan American Health organisation, 2013) and air pollution is responsible for 35,000 annual premature deaths (World Health Organisation, 2002). The World Bank says the most important factors in poor air quality in the region include crowded land use and lack of transport planning
  • developers and private sector can invest far more in urban regeneration projects, instead of leaving governments alone to pay out of tighter public budgets for social housing, transport links and energy infrastructure to service new developments

Professor Steve Mithen, the University of Reading's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for International and External Engagement said: "The scale and pace of urban development in South America are creating considerable challenges in infrastructure, pollution and social equity. The University of Reading has expertise in addressing such issues, drawing on not only the UK experience but also throughout the world. This conference brings us together with academics and policy makers from throughout South America, to share knowledge and learn from each other. It provides one example of the burgeoning relationship between the Universities of Reading and Sao Paulo in collaborative research and teaching."

Dr Claudia Beatriz Murray, Research Fellow, University of Reading's School of Real Estate and Planning and conference organiser said: "South America has a very patchy record in investing effectively in urban infrastructure and social housing. It's worrying that far many too schemes simply exacerbate social inequality, drive up pollution and are of poor standard.

"A radical change in the regions' planning systems is needed so that all citizens have equal share of the benefits of city life. Creating a greater social mix is crucial - policymakers must eliminate the many physical and cultural barriers that currently cut through rich and poor neighbourhoods.

"The conditions for change are ripe. Some good schemes and previously unthinkable changes are taking place such us the transformation of Curitiba in Brazil and Medellin in Colombia. South American countries can learn from others and benefit from the experience of the UK. This conference is about getting that debate and discussion started."

Developing Social Equality and Economic Transparency of Future Cities is held from 23rd until 26th September 2013 at the Escola Politécnica da USP, Av. Prof. Almeida Prado - Trav. 2 no 83, Edificio de Engenharía Civil, Cidade Universitária, 05508-900 SP Brazil

Notes to editors:

  1. View the full programme >>>
  2. Read the research context >>>
  3. The event is being joint funded by the University of Reading; University of Sao Paul; Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (Foundation for Research Support of the State of São Paulo, or FAPESP); The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors; and the Reading Real Estate Foundation. It is being supported by the Academy of Urbanism and Cullinan Studio in the UK. Other Institutional research partners include the University of Cambridge; Universidad Javeriana, Bogota, Colombia; and Universidad de Belgrano, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  4. Read biographies of the main speakers >>>
  5. The following policy papers will be discussed during the conference:

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