The production of housing, beyond its role as a primary response to the human right of dwelling and provision of human shelter and welfare, has gradually shifted towards being a synonym of the capitalization of land, and of profitability and speculation in metropolitan regions worldwide.
Only half a century ago, in Spanish post civil-war contexts, the (silenced) informal production of housing on the one side and the state-driven provision of mass housing in growing metropolises like Barcelona or Madrid on the other side responded to a massive demand. During that same period, the British architect John F. C. Turner studied informal housing production and strategies of selforganization in Peru, also in a demand-responding context, which led him to finally write his article “Housing as a verb” (in: Freedom to Build, New York, 1972), where housing is described as a process and an activity that corresponds to the real needs of its inhabitants in each step of their personal biography and development. At the turn to the 21st century, Spanish major urban agglomerations have shifted from a necessity-driven housing production towards merely speculation-driven dynamics, disconnected from real needs and a human-oriented urban development. In a contemporary context and as a consequence of the global financial crisis, those housing complexes built as pure products have become underutilized and even inaccessible products to possible users and have, as such, completely transformed the perception of housing production. Meanwhile, Latin American cities reinvent new mechanisms and policies of mass housing production, still in order to respond to an existing demand, but neglecting any participatory achievements of a past half-century, and are gradually evening the path towards adopting similar speculative tendencies in a post-colonial context.
The paper claims for a contemporary (re)definition of housing as a verb and an activity and defines both forms of urban activisms and manifestations of urban memory as motors to achieve a reorientation of housing policies in contemporary Hispano-American contexts.