Urban Housing in Brazil – all about inequality?

The Infamous Brazilian Paradox - favellas overlooking Copacabana beach

After images of Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana Beach, and carnival, Brazil is probably best recognized by images of the shantytowns that surround the country’s expanding cities. This past Wednesday, Joshua Shake, PhD candidate in Urban Planning, enlightened the IEDP group about Brazil’s housing policies and issues that surround accommodating growing populations in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the country’s most populated municipalities.

One can clearly detect Brazil’s struggle with inequality via the country’s housing landscape. Three forms of informal housing settlements are most common in Brazil:

favelas: Irregular settlements built on public or private property (usually in the outskirts) which are illegally occupied by poor families. They are characterized by scant primary and secondary urbanization.

cortiços: Rented housing units mainly made up of a single room, obtained by the repeated  sub-division of houses, particularly in old buildings in the city center. They are characterized by overcrowding and problematic sanitary conditions.

loteamentos: Subdivisions of housing for which builders may not have documents allowing them to build on the lot. Units in these subdivisions are generally occupied by people with modest incomes, yet they don’t always have infrastructural needs.

In Brazil, most housing policies come from the federal level. However each of these informal settlements may be governed by a different level of government (federal, state, local), and the settlements themselves may also be located within each other (i.e. a favela may be found within a loteamento). This further complicates government and public service provider relationships.

The Brazilian government has attempted to address urban housing issues by prioritizing informal settlement areas that are deemed high importance via government criteria. Despite these efforts, the future of urban housing and tackling public housing issues remains a struggle between thoroughly addressing inequality and the country’s desire expand its influence.

Até logo,

PhD/MPP ’16


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