Vecindades: Mexico City's Answer to 'Missing Middle Housing'

An iconic multifamily housing form repurposes the former homes of Mexico's elite into communal housing for urban workers.

January 25, 2022, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


In an article series exploring iconic home designs around the world, Natalie Delgadillo describes an urban Mexican housing type known as a "vecindad." Although the word technically means "neighborhood," it has come to define a specific design: "a kind of tenement where individual apartments encircle a central patio, and residents often share facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens."

The vecindad, Delgadillo writes, is an appropriate symbol of the country's colonial past, having started life as an imposing home for aristocratic Spanish families before being subdivided into dwellings for the working class. "The history of these structures in Mexico City is rich and deep; they tell a story about the city’s development into a megalopolis, not to mention the country’s myriad — and sometimes seismic — economic and political shifts from the 17th century onward."

As rural Mexicans migrated to cities in search of work in the 19th century and the wealthy moved to the suburban periphery, the buildings were repurposed as multifamily rental units. They at first lacked private amenities like bathrooms or kitchens, though some have been added more recently. The central patio linked the residents for essential tasks, creating a "deeply communal way of life."

Delgadillo describes the complex and nuanced social relations created by the intimate nature of the vecindades and the intricate hierarchies developed among their inhabitants. According to the article, the vecindad gained a cultural cache that has left a powerful imprint on the Mexican imagination. But today's vecindades have fallen into disrepair, writes Delgadillo, damaged by earthquakes and decades of neglect from policymakers and planners who prioritized newer housing types. Now, despite some restoration efforts, the future of vecindades as a source of housing for low-income families is threatened as the buildings get converted to other uses or more expensive housing.

Monday, January 10, 2022 in Bloomberg CityLab

Chicago Commute

Planning for Congestion Relief

The third and final installment of Planetizen's examination of the role of the planning profession in both perpetuating and solving traffic congestion.

May 12, 2022 - James Brasuell

Twin Cities

Minneapolis Housing Plan a Success—Not for the Reason You Think

Housing advocates praise the city’s move to eliminate single-family zoning by legalizing triplexes on single-family lots, but that isn’t why housing construction is growing.

May 13, 2022 - Reason

LAX Cars

Car Noise Is Killing Us

It’s not just traffic collisions that kill—a new study from researcher at Rutgers finds that the loud noises emanating from cars has direct impact on heart health in Americans.

May 6, 2022 - Streetsblog USA

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Driver Shortage Undercuts the Potential of L.A.’s Recent Bus System Redesign

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority implemented a complete overhaul of its bus system in three waves over the course of 2021. A shortage of drivers for the system has made it impossible to implement that vision.

22 minutes ago - TransitCenter

Homelessness

Fewer People Experiencing Homelessness in San Francisco

In a first since 2015, the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco declined from the year prior, according to preliminary analysis of the city’s most recent Point-in-Time count.

1 hour ago - San Francisco Chronicle

State Capital of Utah

Affordable Housing Proposal Faces Backlash in Salt Lake City

A public hearing last week revealed widespread opposition to a plan to loosen density and height limits and reduce parking requirements to encourage more developers to build affordable housing.

2 hours ago - The Salt Lake Tribune

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.