The rapid and unplanned growth of Latin American and Caribbean cities has led to a spatial extension of the cities without the creation of any new centralities. The high demand of housing, as result of the ongoing rapid urbanization process, was tried to be met by constructing new settlements with high-density accommodation structures at the fringe of the cities. In other cities, with less regulated planning strategies, immigrants themselves started to build their own houses informally if there was a lack of (available) accommodation. The usage and function of these new settlements was mostly concentrated on housing, other functions such as recreation, offices, education, shopping etc. where left behind.
One of the results of creating monofunctional neighborhoods – either formal or informal – are very long commuting hours – this is especially true for the metropolitan cities of Panama City and San José and the Argentine cities of Mendoza and Jujuy. Residents of these cities often work in the city center, where big companies and office buildings are located, but live in the periphery, as there are not any jobs offered in or close to their neighborhoods and accommodation in the central areas is not affordable. Not only jobs, but also important facilities, such as schools, universities, health care facilities, shops, that you need on a daily or weekly basis, often are concentrated in the central areas of the cities.
The residential areas in the periphery are often lacking public functions and recreational uses. For example, in Campeche the only centrality is the picturesque but lifeless historic city center, therefore new centralities are needed to create recreational hubs for the people. Especially in high-density urban areas without any private gardens or terraces, every citizen should have access to a public park, public square, or similar free space for recreation in walking distance. This can be seen as prerequisite for a certain standard of living.
In the case of Quito a central and former mixed-use neighborhood is now struggling with insecurity issues due to the monofunctional commercial use. This example shows us, that only a balanced mix of working, living, a variety of commercial uses (shops, restaurants etc.) and public uses (social infrastructure, administration, etc.) in a neighborhood can create a center where different groups of people like to spend their free time and get in contact to each other. Public spaces that show a social mix are more likely to be secure.
Neighborhoods need to regenerate and rejuvenate, especially in Valdivia, Mendoza and Jujuy and Panama City. Together with renewal of the building stock and the articulation of the public space, these cities will offer more opportunities to its inhabitants. The goal should be to create neighborhoods, where residents not only live and spend their leisure time there, but neighborhoods, where people are offered more functions than residential use. Residents should get the possibility to spend some of their free time in their neighborhood and manage their daily life there (provision of basic supplies, primary health care, etc.) without being dependent on long commuting distances.