Housing Projects | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Housing Projects

Residential real estate has boomed for several years. Foreigners, especially Americans, are attracted to San Miguel by its ambience, climate and culture. A growing middle class in Mexico City seeks second homes in our historical city. House prices have risen sharply, much as they have in the U. S. and other first-world countries.

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Large developments have sprung up at the periphery of the city; smaller ones are being built in more central areas where enough land can be found. The houses pictured above probably are priced in the neighborhood of $100,000 U. S.—ideal for an expatriate with modest resources or a Mexican middle manager.

But for the vast majority of Mexicans, these houses might as well be on the Moon. Never, in their lifetimes nor in their children's, will they accumulate enough to buy one.

Competition from the well-heeled makes things worse. My friend, Guadalupe Cano, built his four-bedroom house in the little pueblo of Capilla de Milpillas, near Guadalajara, for $25,000. He'd have to spend ten times that much to build it here. What Bill Clinton called "ordinary people" have been frozen out of the market.

What to do?

The government has thrown itself into the breach.

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The Fondo Nacional de Apoyo Económico a la Vivenda (the Mexican penchant for unpronounceable acronyms renders this FONAEVI) provides a much-needed path to home ownership for the poor.

The name means something like the National Fund for Economic Support of Housing. The medallion reeks of typical governmental paternalism: tu casa, not the respectful su casa. And the inclusion of every Mexican politician's smarmy catchphrase: Contigo es posible—With you, it's possible.

Barf.

But the program is a good one. How it works is, you begin by depositing at least $50 pesos in a bank account. When interest and contributions amount to $12,000 pesos, you can purchase a government-built house for $120,000 with your savings, taking back a $108,000 low-cost mortgage.

That's an entire house for $11,000, in real money. Only $1,100 down. About the price of a beater car.

Here's what you get for your money:

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OK. These are never gonna make the cover of Architectural Digest. But while they might not appeal to you and me, for many Mexican families, they are the impossible dream.

Look. They have water and electricity and sewers and four walls and a roof and a front door that can be locked. No phone or gas, but you add those later, when you can afford them.

Rosario, our cook, lives in a similarly subsidized house. Illiterate, a mother at 13 years old, employed as a maid all her life, she and her cab driver husbad could never have owned their home without help.

There's a long waiting list for these houses. Plus, I think there's a lottery involved. Until your turn comes up, you just have to do the best you can. Often, that's not very well.

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"Pablito! You're driving me crazy. Go outside and watch TV!"
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