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A new approach to development in Latin America

Grad student Alba Medina Flores mixes affordable housing with social consciousness
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Alba Medina Flores, a graduate student studying real estate development in the MIT Center for Real Estate, is putting together a business plan to challenge the traditional approach to real estate development in Latin America — which focuses primarily on short-term profits with little consideration for social or environmental concerns.

Working with mentors at the School of Architecture + Planning's Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship, she aims to create a prototype of affordable, sustainable, mixed-use development using urban planning concepts that promote the efficient use of natural resources and protect the environment.

A key ingredient is to acquire land from local farmers at the periphery of a mid-sized Mexican city, and offer them a share in the project’s profits. The low cost of land, combined with economies of scale in purchasing construction materials, makes for a promising value proposition, Medina Flores says, while improving the quality of life for those in the rising middle class and those less fortunate.

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