Lessons from Chile; how cities can improve quality of life

With rational urban planning and management, cities can become dynamic centres of innovation.

October 18, 2022
Santiago de Chile

Chileans who live in cities have seen significant improvements in their quality of life.


The resilience of cities and the enhanced capacity of their inhabitants is decisive in facing social, economic and health crises, as well as in mitigating the effects of climate change.

Chile is experiencing a growing urbanization. Some 90 percent of Chileans live in cities, and they have seen significant improvement in the quality of life, through greater access to jobs, basic infrastructure, equipment, and community services.

The policies and programmes of recent decades have put special emphasis on reducing the housing deficit. Despite these achievements, significant inequalities persist, including territorial segregation, concentration of poverty, fragmentation, insecurity, overcrowding, low internet connectivity, and the lack of equitable access to urban public goods.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing issues, increasing inequalities. Cities were hard-hit, particularly the most vulnerable citizens. This crisis, however, despite all its negative consequences, presents an opportunity to rethink the way in which we live, connect, build, and maintain our cities.

With rational and urban planning and management, cities can become dynamic centres of innovation that drive positive changes in people's daily lives. Cities can also be a protective factor against unforeseen events.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 aims to make cities and communities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. This means access, for the entire population, to housing and basic services, as well as adequate, affordable and safe means of transportation, especially for people in vulnerable situations. SDG 11 also promotes sustainable urban planning with green areas, safe and inclusive public spaces, and an improved conditions in vulnerable neighbourhoods.

Chile’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and UNDP are working together to consolidate timely responses on urban development, in a context of high complexity marked by the post-pandemic recovery, and the great transformations that Chile is experiencing.

This alliance aims to re-position the role of the state as the lead in urban development, as well as the promoter, protector and guarantor of the right to adequate housing. In addition, the partnership aims to advance in terms of planning and governance, and in the articulation of policies, comprehensive regulatory frameworks and governance models that favour coordination, decentralization, and urban-rural synergy.

The partnership will address the housing crisis and its most visible expression: the growth in the number of informal settlements. An estimated 643,534 families in Chile lack adequate housing because of the rise in real estate prices, the cost of materials and increases in demand.

The partnership aims to promote urban planning with a special focus on the Housing Emergency Plan, which will increase decent housing and deliver 260,000 homes during President Gabriel Boric’s administration.

Resilient urban spaces tackle the environmental crisis and climate change, through sustainable plans that protect the environment, foster renewable energy, and water efficiency, and reduce carbon emissions.

It is crucial to put people at the centre of urban development and to promote inclusive communities by strengthening citizen participation. Citizens must be agents of change and assume a shared responsibility and involvement in decisions related to their living environment.

More than ever, it is necessary to establish a commitment to promote inclusive and sustainable urban development. In the cities lie the future of our populations, and it is in cities where we can better achieve inclusive and sustainable economic growth and not accept greater inequality. Our fate is in our hands. We hope that the UNDP partnership with the Government of Chile will result in a prosperous future.