Abstract for: Social Housing in Colombia: A case for Social Systems Engineering

Social housing is one of the deepest felt needs in Colombia. In 2011, the number of families without quality housing reached 3.5 million. Statistics reflect the severity of the problem, yet its real dimension is deeper and much more complex as it interconnects actors with diverse motivations. Unfortunately, the policies that are currently being applied in Colombia follow a simple linear cause-effect type of thinking, for instance simply granting more subsidies or imposing severe minimum laws. Such policies do not take into consideration the complex structure of a social system. Seen from a systems perspective, it is possible to propose structural policies that will modify the dominance of different potential feedback loops to accomplish systemic improvements. Some of the opportunities to empower the virtuous loops are found in the community networks, economies of scale and the quality of the housing as a way to impulse progress. The greatest dangers that should be treated are the high economic and social costs generated by informal and low quality housing. Our proposal thus recognizes the social housing system as driven by motivated actors that form feedback loops, which explain and ‘produce’ the problem. We understand such type of intervention as an example of social systems engineering.