Of all the Latin America nations, Colombia has gained a reputation for managing urban growth, both by requiring master planning in cities and a system of value capture, or participación en plusvalías, to finance infrastructure and amenities. The first stirrings were in 1991 with changes in the constitution relating to property rights, suggesting that development carried with it certain social obligations. In 1997, the Territorial Development Law, known as Law 388, went into effect, requiring cities to engage in planning; until that time, only Bogota, Medellin, and Cali had done so.
“Most cities were just doing whatever they wanted with their territory,” said Gina Parody, a lawyer from Bogotá who was elected to the House of Representatives for the Radical Change Movement in 2002 and was elected the youngest member of the Senate four years later. Today nearly 1,100 cities have master plans, and those that don’t are in conflict zones, with other things to worry about.
With the planning frameworks in place, the rules for urban developers come next: landowners who get approved for projects must provide water, sewer, electrical, gas, and pedestrian networks; 25 percent of residential development must be affordable. In addition to whatever property tax that is eventually paid, there is also a system of value capture: if government action changes zoning from rural to urban land, for example, allowing more intensive land use, developers pay into a fund for still more infrastructure including parks and recreation amenities. Though Bogota alone has raised $28 million this way, Parody says the system isn’t working well: there are long delays and uncertainty over payment amounts tied to the land value increments.
Parody, who stepped down from Congress last year, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Administration at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, says bureaucratic procedures are partly to blame – a dizzying flow chart of requirements from a cadastral certificate to topographical maps. She urges simplicity, both for the sake of builders and the government. Parody spoke at the fall lecture series at Lincoln House October 1, introduced by Martim Smolka, director of the Program on Latin America and the Carribbean.