Jorge Silva MPA/MUP 2018 focuses on the role of housing policy to create cities that thrive.
By Calee Lucht
May 7, 2018
Jorge Silva is a Chilean architect and urban planner completing a Master in Public Administration at Harvard Kennedy School and a Master in Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His career has focused on urban renewal in historic neighborhoods, mixed-income housing policy, and the effects of social housing policy in Chile. After the 2010 earthquake, Jorge served as an architect in the National Reconstruction Program in Chile’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Development where he created and implemented 27 urban regeneration plans in cities affected by the disaster. Jorge holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
What brought you to HKS?
I believe Chile is going through a very important period of its history—it has the potential of becoming a developed country in several years. But to achieve this, it must have a thriving economy and leaders who rise to the challenge and ensure that the benefits of development reach everyone. I want to contribute from the public sector, to advance the changes that Chile needs to achieve development.
I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of economic and political issues that relate to my interests in urban policy. I worked for four years as a public official in developing and implementing public policy, and wanted to expand my approach to urban issues—I had always looked at them from a design perspective.
During my first year at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, I realized a concurrent Master in Public Administration (MPA) degree would be the perfect complement to fulfill my professional goals. The MPA Program offered me great flexibility and autonomy to choose the courses I felt were important to advance my career.
I also believe exposure to different problems and cases from other countries is an extraordinary way to learn about policy making, and how the same problems we are dealing with in Chile are being addressed from a completely different perspective in other countries. For me, the experience of learning new ways to tackle problems from people who come from other disciplines, cultures, and origins is fundamental. The range of nationalities, cultures, and backgrounds at HKS is one of the main reasons I chose to continue my education here.
What classes, professors, or activities have made a real impact on you during your time at HKS?
Professor Chris Herbert’s course U.S. Housing Markets, Problems, and Policies had us explore different aspects of housing policy in the U.S. and think critically about the positive and negative effects of the housing programs, particularly while facing the challenges of housing affordability.
I also helped lead the “Chilean Dinner,” a long-standing tradition that brings together Chilean students in Cambridge and Boston with relevant personalities from Chile to talk about issues of national importance and how students—as future agents of the national agenda—can advance these issues. Our dinners included guests such as Felipe Larraín, Chile’s Minister of Finance (2010–2014 and 2018–present), César Hidalgo, an associate professor at MIT and director of the Collective Learning group at the MIT Media Lab, and Felipe Kast, who received his PhD in Public Policy from Harvard and was recently elected to the Chilean Senate. He’s also the founder of Evópoli, a liberal center-right political party. We organized most of these dinners with the Chilean Caucus, an HKS student organization, to create ties within the Harvard community around topics related to Chile.
What’s next for you?
My plan is to return to Chile to work for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development in the housing policy division, which manages national affordable housing policy related to subsidies, housing standards, and related investment programs.
I want to contribute to the design and implementation of public policies and plans that lead to more equitable, integrated cities and towns. And I hope to do this by getting actively involved in local and national government—and contribute to the political discussion about how Chile should shape the future of our cities.