Tag Archives: Quito

Governments and Housing: Mortgage Reform in the US and Formalization in Quito Norte

housing in Quito Norte

Quito     Housing was on my mind.

I spent hours yesterday in a pickup riding the steep roads and byways of Quito Norte with our team and local barrio leaders in the area, four up front and three in the back.  We traveled more than a dozen kilometers up, down and around the mountain sides, often with breathtaking views of the rest of the city or the airport or forested areas too steep still for squatting.  No matter what my colleague, Marcos Gomez from ACORN Canada, and I had been told about the roughness of the area, the fear of crime that led to constant questioning of our insistent advocacy of a door-to-door (puerta a puerta) program here, within a half hour I found myself whispering an aside in English to Marcos, that this had to be the best constructed – and serviced – major low-income barrio that I might have ever seen in Latin America.

Certainly, rebar stood everywhere reaching to the sky with its usual plaintive hopes for the future of the family struggling underneath, but these were sturdy, concrete and brick houses.  Some of the side streets were unpaved and we had to abandon one steep dirt road stretch even with 4-WD, but in the main, the streets were nicely cobbled with pavement bricks and even curbs.  As always in the slums, the higher reaches with more recent arrivals, squatting as they built, were rougher than those below, and, interestingly, in Quito Norte these areas seemed disproportionately populated with Afro-Ecuadorians than other areas, but they were still a long way removed from cardboard and plywood castoff structures I had seen in so much of the world.

Talking more to the local leaders and later to an interesting membership based organization, Banco Comunitario Atucucho, with block leaders in 174 blocks paying $1 per month, who had reacted to a cutback in municipal funding by creating a self-sustaining revenue source that sold several crops of maize per year, it became clear that the real differences emerged when they kept mentioning that the settlements on the mountain tops were “still informal.”  The City of Quito and it’s Mayor had finally concluded that the way forward in Quito Norte was to finally formalize almost all of the squatted areas, so we were in something of a construction boom and area-wide normalization led by soon-to-be home-and-landowners and a city finally not fighting, but actually moving in to accelerate the support and building of a public works infrastructure.  There were areas without sewerage still, but these were at the top.  Electricity was common.  Potable water was either there or around the corner with water trucks delivering only at the highest ground.  Government was making a difference by helping these tens of thousands of lower income and working families to become homeowners and build some citizen wealth rather than continuing in the gray area of informal and precarious status.

All of which made me read in full the Times editorial today which correctly identifies the bank toadying and inaction of the Treasury Department and other government outfit as the single largest failure of the domestic program of the Obama Administration.  We now have millions of Americans who are living in an “informal” status as well.  Twelve million as the Times cites, that owe $600 Billion more than their homes are worth.  Three million still awaiting foreclosure.  These are big numbers.  They should be able, just as in Quito Norte, to finally get their government to not just help, but do its job.

So much is undone for US homeowners still mired in the housing mess, fashioned on Wall Street and Orange County, and now aided and abetted by a president who knows better and needs to finally at least work his own administration to his and the peoples’ will, that we have to demand that, finally, we see real action, rather than empty rhetoric about foreclosures and homeowners.   The Times is right:

“…the foreclosure crisis, and its damage to homeowners and the economy, is still paramount. In the next term, the focus should be on debt reduction, refinancing, enforcement and true consumer protection.”

talking with folks of Banco Comunitario Atucucho

sign that says essentially that anyone caught burglarizing a home will be burned

 

 

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United We Dream, Training in Quito, and Ecuadorian Volleyball

With Valentina Ramia of Ruptura25 we begin training organizers for first visits in Quito Norte barrios

Quito    Nice to wake up and read the front page of the New York Times and see our companero/companera Carlos Saavedra from Peru and Boston and Gaby Pacheco from Ecuador and Miami, along with other young organizers and activists with United We Dream finally get the credit for their courage and skill in breaking through both the Congressional and professional nonprofit Beltway gridlock to force actions which have now given at least temporary relief for more than 300000 immigrants raised in the shadows of the United States after their parents arrival.    We met with them at length in Washington last year and couldn’t have been more impressed.  They are a case study in how to make change, despite the odds, by creating a narrative around injustice, building and holding onto a real base, and then creating tactics that are not artificial but real demonstrations of anger, courage, and resolve.  We are all so close to seeing real change for so many of these young people, and hopefully many of their families, that even though it is still too early to celebrate victory, it felt great to finally see them get a small measure of the huge credit they deserve.  Viva!  Se si puede!

Speaking of Ecuador, it was exciting to start training our first thirteen organizers preparing to go puerta a puerta or door-to-door to begin building a base in the barrios of Quito as part of our partnership between ACORN International and Ruptura25, an emerging progressive political party in the country.  It was great to see the organizers point out on the large map of Quito, where they lived, as they introduced themselves to each other.  It was also fascinating to listen to them when we got them talking about local issues in their own barrios.  There was excitement talking about the corruption of local officials, unremediated by the national law enforcement apparatus, and having to pay bribes to place their children in public schools, get accepted for public day care, and even see their fathers pay to get professional jobs with contributions to politicians and parties.

While scouting turf in various barrios in Quito Norte, I got to see and enjoy a unique scene:  Ecuadorian Volleyball, or as our companera, Valentina Ramia, called it – EcuiVolleyball.  There are three players to each side, the net is very high, there are very relaxed rules on “holding” the ball, there’s no spiking, and people seemed to have huge fun with crowds gathering along the fence and in the stands for these specially built courts, in order to watch the action from one group of players after another.   Valentina told me she has seen other courts even in New York City, but it was news to me, and wonderful to witness!

Ecuadorian Volleyball

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