Online: 6-8 July 2021

On July 7, 2021, the OLA project “COVID-19 in Real Time: Comparing the Struggle of Three Slums in Buenos Aires” was presented in the session “COVID-19, housing, and health: learning from pandemic responses from across the Americas” from the 17 International Conference in Urban Health, organized by the International Society for Urban Health (ISUH). Belen Fodde, PhD student in Public and Urban Policy at The New School and Research Assistant of the OLA, presented the study developed by a research team located in Buenos Aires and New York, directed by Michael Cohen and Margarita Gutman and coordinated by Matias Ruiz Diaz. The researchers were Carolina Diaz, Cecilia Cabrera, Barbara Mora, Belen Fodde, and Matias Ruiz Diaz.

The project focused on understanding the differences in the evolution of COVID-19 cases in popular neighborhoods in the city of Buenos Aires, and it included the comparative analysis of three cases: Villa 20, Villa 15, and Villa 1-11-14. The team analyzed the experience of these three neighborhoods between March and October 2020, based on the “neighborhood effects” (Sampson 2003) that determined the different response capacities in each villa and their “collective efficacy” (Sampson 2003), referring to the internal capacity of groups to recognize problems and to mobilize to find solutions and effective responses. The work included a combination of quantitative, qualitative and spatial tools, that enabled to understand the historical conditions of the neighborhoods and the governmental and community responses to COVID-19.

The team concluded that the level of consolidation and depth of the previous working relations between the government and the social and political organizations of each villa determined the particular response capacity to COVID-19 in each neighborhood. In this sense, Villa 20 is a relevant case as one of the participatory spaces created during its upgrading process helped to provide solutions during COVID-19, at the same time it contributed to the consolidation of a decision-making space in Villa 15. This may also explain why in Villa 1-11-14 the peak of cases was significantly earlier than in the other two neighborhoods, as the time gained to organize mitigations’ actions was a key element of the response capacity to COVID-19.

The study was funded by the Swedish International Development Agency through Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden. It benefited from the technical and substantive support of Jan Riise of the Mistra Urban Futures Project and the staff of the Housing Institute of the City Government of Buenos Aires.

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