Favela Upgrading in Rio, Brazil: Morar Carioca

In Rio, a few favela-upgrading projects from the Favela-Bairro program, and the Bairroho and Granhes Favelas programs were delayed due to insufficient funding in the late 2000s. In July 2010, Mayor Eduardo Paes made a bold announcement that as part of the social legacy of the 2016 Olympics, all of the favelas in Rio would be upgraded by 2020 through a municipal program called Morar Carioca. The program would have an R$8 billion budget and a partnership with the Brazilian Institute of Architects (IAB), responsible for arranging the upgrades in all favelas with over 100 homes. Learning from Favela-Bairro’s strengths and weakness, Morar Carioca was designed to carry out large-scale upgrading (public works to improve water and sewerage services, drainage systems, road surfacing, street lighting, the provision of green areas, sports fields, recreational areas, and the construction and equipping of social service centers), plus land titling and social services such as education and health centers in favelas.

The Morar Carioca program guarantees the right to “the participation of organized society”, and explicitly acknowledges that favelas developed as a solution to the absence of adequate public housing in the city. It concludes from past experiments upgrading favelas in Rio that, if upgraded in a participatory way, favela-style development is a valuable urban form for the city. In response to this, the IAB hosted a design competition in 2010 in which over 80 architecture firms from around the world presented sample designs for favela upgrading. Forty winning firms were chosen, and each was assigned a “grouping” of favelas to create plans specific to their topography, layout, and social service needs.

However, the Morar Carioca program has been criticized as “the label that the city government is using to refer to all sorts of upgrades that were not designed as part of this program”, says Mariana Cavalcanti, a Fundação Getúlio Vargas professor and anthropologist who was hired by one of the first architecture firms selected in the formal IAB competition. Originally designed to receive participatory upgrades through the IAB partnership, the program now has non-participatory upgrades interventions –even forced evictions –on several favelas by the city government.

Today, Morar Carioca is more used as a re-election campaign strategy by Eduardo Paes, rather than the implemented favela-upgrading program, since no favela upgrades have been done using the IAB-sanctioned participatory process. Despite its incredible promise, the program’s name has been used so far by local authorities to undertake arbitrary interventions in Rio’s favelas. Morar Carioca has arrived a contradictory path: a proclamation of upgrading but a practice that emphasizes home removals, both through overt demolition and enabling of gentrification.

Rio on Watch. A History of Favela Upgrades Part III: Morar Carioca in Vision and Practice (2008-Present). http://www.rioonwatch.org/?p=8136

Zhangjun (Winnie) Zhou, MPP ’15


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