The creation of the Caja de la Habitacion Popular [Popular Housing Fund] in 1936 was largely a quest for the design of a model home and a modern city for Chile, a country emerging from colonialism. The Caja operated for twenty-six years until 1952, building 43 310 houses during three different presidential administrations. It soon became the major way to reflect the country's development, modernize society, bolster the economy, support national industry and signal what role housing programmes would play in public policy for the rest of the twentieth century. While previous administrations were motivated primarily by partisan politics, the new era of public administration was based upon an objective planning system. This paper focuses on the Caja's affordable housing struggle and how it shaped large portions of Santiago between the 1930s and 1960s. It also explores the transformation in public housing programmes and agencies from their amateur beginnings to their later professionalized approach. It examines a number of the public and private housing schemes built during different political regimes in Santiago's history, the planners and architects making persistent efforts to modernize and develop the city. These projects explored both the potentialities and limitations of urban design in housing and made a profound impact on housing design in Chile, as well as on the morphology of its cities.