Mexico works to support victims of the September 2017 earthquakes

Tragedy struck in September 2017, when two earthquakes killed hundreds of people and caused billions of dollars of damage to public and private property in Mexico City and the states of Guerrero, México, Morelos, Oaxaca and Puebla. The second, 7.1-magnitude quake on September 19, damaged approximately 40,000 houses and toppled 44 buildings in Mexico City alone. However, repair work and rebuilding will provide a boost to the construction sector, which has seen performance decline annually since 2014. However, Gustavo Aballo Luján, the president of the Mexican Chamber of Construction (Cámara Mexicana de la Industria de la Construcción, CMIC), told local media in March 2018 that reconstruction work had been slow.

Reconstruction

Following the disaster, the federal government announced an MXN37.5bn ($2bn) reconstruction fund, and the CMIC estimated in March 2018 that reconstruction would be 50% complete by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the Reconstruction Law (RL) proposed by Miguel Ángel Mancera, then-mayor of Mexico City, was approved by the Legislative Assembly in December 2017, pledging to finance demolition and reconstruction work, and oversee the repair of damage to public and private property. The amount granted will depend on affected residents’ socio-economic levels.

The law also created a committee to enforce updated and new building codes and ensure the construction of more resilient infrastructure, updating the regulations introduced after the September 1985 earthquake. The new framework governs earthquake-proof building design and prohibits flat-slab designs, which are already forbidden in countries such as Chile and the US and were found to be the cause of the collapse of two-thirds of the buildings lost in the 2017 earthquakes.

By mid-February 2018 the city government had granted reconstruction permits to just five property owners, allowing them to both begin their rebuilding works under the RL that came into effect three months prior and use the construction company of their choice.

However, critics of the RL claim that victims’ right to housing is not being respected and that reconstruction will solely benefit real estate developers. In a complaint to the city’s Human Rights Commission, Damnificados Unidos de la Ciudad de México, a non-governmental organisation comprising residents made homeless by the quake, told local media that the law does not provide access to legal due process and only allows for reconstruction of 35% of affected buildings, while financing of rebuilding works is limited to soft credit.

Public Efforts

In March 2018 the city government bolstered its verification and registration of damaged buildings with the deployment of 10 evaluation brigades. The results will be posted on Plataforma Mexico City, a website created to document damage and allow citizens to apply for public support to carry out repair or reconstruction work. It details the steps to secure support from the reconstruction fund, financed by the federal and city governments with private sector participation. The website also provides information on reconstruction or demolition work, and data on the financial support already granted to affected parties.

In the case of minor damage, the city authorities pledged to provide the necessary materials to carry out repair work. If demolition and reconstruction is necessary, the city government also pledged to cover the cost of geophysical surveys and planning. It also launched a website documenting construction progress and providing affected citizens with orientation and advice, as well as allowing donations to such efforts.

In March 2018 Mexico City’s Secretariat of Urban Development and Housing issued an urban development law, which calls for public consultation on the drawing up of urban development and land use strategy in each of Mexico City’s 16 boroughs.

Cementos Moctezuma, one of the country’s largest cement and concrete manufacturers, said in its fourth quarter 2017 report that it expected growth in sales in 2018 due to earthquake-related construction.

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The Report: Mexico 2018

Construction & Real Estate chapter from The Report: Mexico 2018

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