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Friday, January 21, 2022

Yucatán’s new high-cost apartment trend and housing crisis

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
The new U Tara towers in Cholul are likely the beginning of a new construction trend in Yucatán. Photo: Courtesy.

A new apartment complex has opened in Cholul, on the outskirts of northern Mérida. 

The residential complex, U Tara, is made up of five towers and houses 100 apartments.

On-site facilities include a swimming pool, bar, park, and gym.

Historically, apartment living has been relatively uncommon in Mérida, with the majority of new towers and condominiums having been built in the last decade. 

But as the city continues to welcome new residents from other states used to living in apartments, the demand for such housing solutions has grown considerably.

For the most part, apartment-style residential projects in Mérida have been marketed as luxury properties, with price tags to match. 

For example, apartments in the 30-story Country Towers range from roughly 6 million pesos or nearly 300,0000 USD for a single bedroom unit to over 11 million pesos for two bedrooms — that’s over half a million USD.

This in a state where the average worker makes 81,000 pesos a year, according to statistics provided by the INEGI.

Earlier: The skyrocketing value of colonial homes in downtown Mérida

But there are signs that this trend of extremely highly valued apartment units is beginning to reverse, at least somewhat. 

For instance, apartments in the new U Tara complex begin at just over 1.5 million pesos or 75,000 USD. Though still out of reach for most in Mèrida, the price is 30% higher than relatively inexpensive homes sold in developments such as Los Heroes or Las Américas that go for around 900,000 pesos. 

But even these so-called affordable homes are up to three times more expensive than they were just a decade ago. 

Before home prices began to rise exponentially in Mérida, most workers in Mérida financed their homes using a government program known as INFONAVIT. Under this scheme, a percentage of employees’ salary was retained by the state and combined with compulsory contributions by their employer to pay a frozen mortgage. 

But because prices have risen so sharply while wages have stagnated, these INFONAVIT credits are no longer enough to purchase virtually any property in Yucatán, let alone in Mérida. 

The state government has attempted to address this problem with subsidized socially just housing programs. But in many cases, the homes on offer are not much more than a single-piece structure that resembles a shed more than a home. 

Critics of the governor have not been shy to ridicule that notion that such extremely tiny and apparently poorly built homes could ever be considered an example of social justice. 

“These sorts of band aid solutions are not solutions at all. The governor and other politicians should be embarrassed of themselves for calling a program like this just, let alone promoting it on their social media channels,” said feminist and social justice activist Estefnía Veloz. 

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