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An Opportunity for Better Cities

In the last twenty years, Mexico’s urban sprawl – defined as the process in which the urban footprint grows at a larger pace than population growth, leading to a decrease of urban density – has been more markedly experienced in medium-sized cities (500,000 to 3 million people), especially in the rural towns of metropolitan areas. The new urban peripheries are spaces of socio-spatial segregation, with few, low-skilled informal employment opportunities and poor access to urban services that improve the quality of life, such as formal employment, basic urban facilities, and public space. Moreover, this urban expansion has resulted in increases in emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

To counter this, it is necessary to recognise that the current urban model is not financially sustainable: it leads to a progressive deterioration of essential public urban services. Secondly, it is necessary to analyse the urban structure and the housing stock of each city to design adequate public policies. And thirdly, it is necessary to combine densification and adequate location, to prioritize the support of the most vulnerable population and to maximise the benefits of urban policies.

Three Basic Principles to Move Towards Comprehensive Planning

The report The Cost of Urban Expansion in Mexico analyses the cost of peripheral urban expansion in eight metropolitan areas: Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana, Reynosa, Mérida, Tuxtla Gutiérrez and Culiacán and recommends three basic principles to consider to move towards a comprehensive planning that is respectful of the environment, inclusive and in which urban economic potential is maximised:

  • A shared responsibility for urban planning between governments, the private sector and the citizens, which would include a fiscal co-accountability of the three government levels.
  • Focused institutional support on the most vulnerable population and territories, in social, economic or environmental terms.
  • A comprehensive vision of planning, with a holistic analysis on the impacts and benefits of urban development in the short and long terms.

The Cost of Urban Expansion in Mexico is the third publication of the Coalition for Urban Transitions in Mexico, after the reports Federal Actions for Urban Planning: Towards Better Cities for All and Mexican Cities: Expansion Trends and their Impacts.

The Coalition has been working in Mexico since January 2019, and among its partners and collaborators are WRI Mexico, C40, GGGI, Tecnológico de Monterrey, ONU-Habitat, ICLEI, Fundar, Oxfam, UNAM, CEPAL, Techo Mexico, GIZ, El Colegio de Urbanistas de México, IDOM and ITAM.

Country programme:Mexico