Throughout the Americas, cities are growing at a rapid pace. While this growth brings opportunities, inequality is a persistent problem as the cost of living remains an obstacle for many urbanites. From Vancouver to São Paulo, finding viable opportunities for affordable housing is a clarion call for RICS professionals to work with local leaders and partners to find solutions.
The RICS Summit Series Americas 2019 brought together leaders from public and private sectors in the built environment including FM, construction, infrastructure, valuation and commercial real estate. Speaking on the theme, "Cities of the Future," summits were held in Vancouver, Mexico City, Los Angeles and São Paulo starting in April and concluding in June. Each summit addressed universal, global issues from a local perspective.
In Vancouver, Robin Silvester of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority spoke of the challenge of growing to meet demands while on a very limited parcel of land. As Canada continues to diversify export destinations with new trade deals, this pressure to balance requirements for residential properties and industrial properties will only grow.
In Mexico City, experts discussed the challenges of managing investment portfolios in a time of political uncertainty. Investors taking the long view are watching immigration and trade tensions between Mexico and the US rise, knowing growth in their investments will be slow and require patience. Additionally, a new Mexican government brings a separate level of uncertainty to local markets.
Among the challenges noted in Los Angeles is the roadblocks facing those championing affordable housing. In a region with mostly single-family housing, multi-family buildings are not a popular neighbour. Homelessness is a highly visible challenge to the region, showing an 11 percent year over year increase in metropolitan Los Angeles, for example. There are pockets of tent cities across LA, but because of the mild climate, homelessness is not being addressed as the urgent health issue it is in cities like New York or Chicago.
The last regional summit took place in São Paulo, with a population of 12 million, which makes it the largest city in the Americas. In such a large city, building adequate and affordable housing is one of the challenges that comes with rapid growth. The need for smart project management to build resilience and attract investment for infrastructure was a key topic discussed.
With the challenges facing the cities of the future laid bare, RICS continues to bring industry leaders together to discuss ways to make opportunities accessible so the cities of the future are diverse and accessible. These are issues that require a coming together of public and private thought leaders to find solutions and will be a priority for RICS in the Americas at upcoming summits.