Main actors

City Government, Community / Citizen Group

Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region


Ongoing since 2004

An innovative strategy for the urban renewal of informal settlements.

HabitARTE is a social and community initiative where citizens work together to improve the facades and common areas of public spaces in neighborhoods located in informal settlements. Participants are provided with training in different arts and crafts and some have access to employment opportunities. 

HabitARTE fosters social inclusion and co-existence within the community and simultaneously builds citizens leadership skills. Participants decide together, which artworks will be displayed, what colors they use for the facades of their building and on the scope of improvements to public spaces in their neighborhood.

Sustainable Development Goals

End poverty in all its forms everywhereEnsure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all agesEnsure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for allReduce inequality within and among countriesMake cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainablePromote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Bogotá, Colombia
Size and population development
The city of Bogotá has a total population of 8,080,734, while its metropolitan area has a population of over 10,700,000. (world population review 2018)
Population composition
The 2005 census put the population density for the city at approximately 4,310 people per square kilometer. The rural area of the capital district only has about 15,810 inhabitants. The majority of the population is European or of European-mixed descent. The people of mixed descent are those of Mestizo origin. There is a small minority of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous people as well. The city has recorded significant growth for a number of years and is still growing at a rate of 2.65%, this is largely due to internal migration. Historically, Bogota’s main religion was Roman Catholic and the city is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese. In the most recent census, a large portion of the population declared they are non-practicing. (world population review 2018)
Main functions
Bogotá lies in central Colombia and is 2,640 metres about sea level in the Northern Andes Mountains. It is the capital and largest city of Colombia and the educational, cultural, commercial, administrative, financial, and political center. Bogotá is a territorial entity and has the same administrative status as the Departments of Colombia.
Main industries / business
Bogotá is the headquarters for all major commercial banks, and the Banco de la República, Colombia's central bank as well as Colombia's main stock market. As the capital city, it houses a number of government agencies including the national military headquarters and is the center of Colombia's telecommunications network. Additionally, most companies (domestic and international) in Colombia have their headquarters in Bogotá. Bogotá is a major center for the import and export of goods for Colombia and the Andean Community in Latin America and is the home of Colombia's tire, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. Bogotá is the hub of air travel in the nation and the home of South America's first commercial airline Avianca (Aerovías Nacionales de Colombia). Railroads connect Bogotá with the Caribbean coast to the north and via (Puerto Beriro) with the Pacific coast to the west. Bogotá is on the Colombian section of the Pan-American and Simón Bolívar highways and has road connections with all major Colombian cities.
Sources for city budget
The City of Bogotá draws its budget for public expenditure largely from taxes, fees, fines, operating revenues.
Political structure
Bogotá, as the capital of the Republic of Colombia, houses the executive branch (Office of the President), the legislative branch (Congress of Colombia) and the judicial branch (Supreme Court of Justice, Constitutional Court, Council of State and the Superior Council of Judicature) of the Colombian government.
Administrative structure
The Mayor of Bogotá and the City Council, both elected by popular vote, are responsible for city administration. The City is divided into 20 localities and each of these is governed by an administrative board elected by popular vote, made up of no fewer than seven members. The Mayor designates local mayors from candidates nominated by the respective administrative board.
Latin America is one of the most urbanized regions on the planet and the accelerated processes of urbanization have been accompanied by phenomena such as social, economic and spatial segregation. Bogotá’s population has increased twelve times in the last eight decades, and much of this growth has taken place outside the planning process. In this way, informal settlements have appeared in the Colombian capital in tandem with its significant demographic growth. Citizens living in these settlements have historically resided in conditions of vulnerability. 
Informal settlements have to deal with issues such as poverty, inequality and environmental deterioration are dramatically concentrated. Therefore, city officials focus much of their effort on responding to this challenge. The district administration has proposed the "Demarginalize" strategy as a mechanism that articulates different initiatives to improve informal neighborhoods in the city. Within them, the Urban Transformations for Inclusion (TUPI) are developed as a series of strategies aimed at the revitalization of informal neighborhoods, the appropriation of public space and the consolidation of local leadership.  One of the most successful TUPI is HabitARTE.  
The timeline for HabitARTE is:
Law 338 is enacted which establishes the public function of urban planning in Colombia and promotes democratic participation in territorial planning.
The Territorial Ordinance Plan creates Article 158 that establishes the "Integral Neighborhood Improvement" program, which articulates interventions from the social and territorial standpoints.
Comprehensive habitat interventions were included in the District Development Plan, Bogotá Mejor Para Todos, to promote access to prioritized communities to the right to the city.
The District Habitat Secretariat designs and implements Urban Transformations for Inclusion, including HabitARTE.
The first HabitARTE takes place in Aguas Claras neighborhood in San Cristóbal district.
The first macro mural was made in Los Puentes neighborhood, in Rafael Uribe Uribe district.
With HabitARTE, more than 95,000 facades of 83 neighborhoods in 10 different districts of Bogota have been intervened, including 141 murals and 4 macromurals.
The strategy consists of 3 implementation phases:
Phase 1: analysis and community organization; in which the social and technical characterization is made (counting of plots that will be intervened, how many houses have plaster and how many use raw materials, etc.), and the community is informed about the actions to be carried out through social promoters who are members of the same community.
Phase 2: transformation and revitalization; in which the territory is improved, with interventions in facades, sides and roofs, weeding of stairs and parks, cleaning, etc.
Phase 3: education programs for the improvement of the territory; including training and empowerment for ownership and conservation. Professional titles are awarded to the trainees and they are given physical tools so that they can carry on performing practical, as well as theoretical, work.
HabitARTE's ethos is the use of color for the transformation of neighborhoods in informal settlements. Thus, the revitalization of facades and implementation of art becomes the means to strengthen social and community processes through socio-cultural interventions. Participatory workshops are held to identify the needs of each community in topics such as the use of social networks for grassroots organizations, digital job boards and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people.
City officials and other partner institutions listen and guide the community towards self-management. This includes training in wellness issues, beauty, crafts, clothing, and courses including stucco and painting, which include granting the proper certificates.  
The sense of belonging and community is strengthened through social and community initiatives; identification of social activities and groups; entrepreneurship workshops; community activities such as the sancocho (a typical Colombian soup) and gastronomic festival; the participation of community promoters and volunteers; and community and integration festivals. In addition to the recovery of public spaces through adaptation and beautification, HabitARTE also contemplates the creation of macromurales: 3D macro murals, which can be appreciated not only from the perspective of a pedestrian, but also from an aerial view. 
The HabitARTE strategy has four components: 
This constitutes a fundamental axis to achieve rapprochement and dialogue with the citizens living in informal settlements. To achieve the transformation of these neighborhoods, a series of activities including tours, meetings with community leaders, volunteering and prioritization workshops are held in order to promote community participation and generate actions of co-responsibility and sustainability of the interventions.
This component includes different pedagogical strategies to generate stronger ties between the citizens of the beneficiary communities and the rest of Bogotá. In this context, training and knowledge exchange become the ideal means to promote community initiatives. This component works around the interests and capacities of citizens and seeks to upskill citizens of the prioritized neighborhoods and using these skills to improve their immediate environment.
The artistic component directs socio-cultural interventions (the creation of murals and macro murals and the revitalization of public facades) in accordance with the social, cultural, environmental and architectural conditions of the neighborhood or community.
Develops and implements interventions to improve housing and public spaces, in the neighborhoods prioritized by Bogotá’s Housing Department. This component seeks to generate actions focused on improving the appearance of public spaces and accompanies the processes of formation, design and implementation of the actions for territorial improvement.

The lead agency for the project is the City of Bogotá and the program is administered through the Mayor’s office and the Housing Department.

Integration and appropriation
  • To date, 121,708 citizens of Bogotá have benefited from the program.
  • The activities of HabitARTE have managed to unite the elderly population with the young, as the transformation of the territory they inhabit becomes a common endeavor.
  • The collectives and social groups of the communities where HabitARTE has been carried out have collaborated to coordinate their activities. 
  • The creation of macro-murals, and the fact that the community is co-responsible for painting their facades, has strengthened ties between people and there is more community cohesion. The HabitARTE strategy has intervened around 95,000 facades with a strong community participation process. 
  • Within the program, the families have been acknowledged as the key driver for community building and dialogue, with a view to social inclusion.
  • HabitARTE has helped neighborhood communities increase the sense of belonging of their territories, and in this way has fostered a stronger social cohesion and networks of collective care and security. 
  • The recovery and beautification of public spaces with community work has changed the perception of security and ownership of the neighborhood.
Institutional confidence
  • The partnership between community members and different City Departments has increased the confidence and credibility that citizens have for the public administration in Bogotá. 
Capacity Building
  • With the implementation of the HabitARTE, 3,174 people have been trained in arts and crafts.
  • HabitARTE's training programs have generated new abilities and entrepreneurship skills for citizens living in marginalized communities. 
  • Empowerment of the citizens with respect to their neighborhood has been established, thanks in part to the social change promoted by the messages of the interventions. 
  • Community and collective capacities based on their own needs and realities have been strengthened. This is reflected in the symbols and elements that HabitARTE's artists include in the murals and works of art that are significant to the communities. 
  • HabitARTE has brought art to the community: by witnessing the socio-cultural process of murals and how macro murals are managed, people now assume art as valuable
  • Ownership efforts must be continued and offered to those who do not yet accept institutional participation. Likewise, reinforce self-management in order to achieve constancy of the different processes.
  • It is necessary to keep promoting the participation of the community so that citizens feel they, together with the local government, can lead the improvement of their public spaces.
  • It is a challenge for the community to take care of and preserve the artistic interventions, so that they are sustainable in the territory. 
  • It is essential that the City Departments maintain a good communication with the different communities and that they are provided with truthful information in order to eliminate friction between citizens and the district administration. 
  • Continuous effort must be made to recognize new community leaders to complement, renew and gain support for community activities.
  • It is important to maintain community cohesion during the social activities promoted by HabitARTE. This means following up with the community and fulfilling all commitments.
  • The citizens sense of belonging to their neighborhood should be encouraged, taking the necessary time to change imaginaries and establish empowerment processes. This requires transparency in actions and continuity of projects between mayoral administrations.
  • Building trust is the basis of the whole process. The institutions, apart from the Housing Department, must gradually enter the neighborhoods. It is first necessary to establish contact with the community leaders and key people, get approval and then move forward. This is done door to door. It is an activation that generates trust. Likewise, timely and clear plans must be established and community leaders duly informed so that they can communicate them to the rest of the community.
  • The community must remain empowered within its neighborhood, and this makes training and formation processes of community leaders a fundamental aspect of this program.
  • There must be flexibility in the schedules of the different activities within HabitARTE, allowing different citizens to participate in the whole project, each with clear and specific roles.
  • It is essential to have an initial mapping of key stakeholders (including the grassroots organizations) and the have a follow-up strategy for the different activities promoted by the program, as well as the academic evaluation of the project in later phases. 
Innovative elements
  • HabitARTE has linked the development of the strategy to all citizens of Bogota. Activities such as volunteering promotes a sense of belonging and co-responsibility for the care and development of both the public space of the city, as well as informal neighborhoods.
  • The constant and effective conversation between communities and public institutions for the decision making about the activities, works and interventions that are carried out in the territories, has positioned HabitARTE as a good example of true participative government.
Effective elements
  • HabitARTE has already intervened more than 95,000 facades of 83 neighborhoods in 10 localities of Bogota, including 141 murals and 4 macromurals.
  • These specific interventions also bring about deeper social changes such as community tourism, community integration activities, which generate cohesion within these communities.
Sustainable elements
  • Due to the fact that HabitARTE does not have additional resources to those invested during the time of its execution in each territory, its implementation methodology includes different activities to promote its sustainability in time.
  • In this way, the inclusion component promotes experience trajectories, volunteer days and the strengthening of citizen initiatives, as a way to generate networks among key stakeholders interested in these processes and to ensure that the different interventions of the strategy can be maintained over time.
  • Insofar as HabitARTE promotes the recognition of the talents and capacities of the members of the community, it not only mitigates stigmatization and favors the sense of belonging, but also the formation and generation of employment. 
Replicable elements
  • Much of its success is due to the rigorous study of similar experiences and their strategic and creative adaptation to the conditions of informal neighborhoods.
  • HabitARTE proposes a clear and precise methodology of action, capable of being replicated in other cities, given that it allows to understand the environmental, cultural, architectural and heritage conditions of each neighborhood, and how public institutions work in different cities.
  • In this sense, HabitARTE can be replicated by different institutions that have within their mission objectives the improvement of informal settlements. It is important to mention that the TUPI do not require large infrastructure works and the budget for their execution can be managed with private partners in case the municipality or city does not have the necessary budget. 
  • Other cities can replicate the management and leadership capacity that is generated through HabitARTE, as well as the legitimacy to involve communities and their capacity to work in the transformation of their own territories.

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