Federation for
Housing and

Brazilian housing challenges, progress and stagnation

Brazilian cities are of great dimensions and houses great parts of the population.

In Brazil, the urban population counts up to 85 percent, after an intense urbanization process, especially in the second half of the 20th century.


Developments of infrastructure, public services and affordable housing have not at all accompanied this growth. Furthermore, due to land policies and the choice of location for public investments, the Brazilian cities show a serious urban segregation.


People without possibilities to enter the formal housing market prevailed in this urban growth, showing a proportion of informal growth three times bigger than the formal growth. In the beginning of this century, 20 percent of the Brazilian population was living in favelas. Reversely, economic growth and socioeconomic distribution policies contributed to the diminishing of this percentage.


The discussion on urban and housing policies has come to higher levels than ever, partly with the creation of the Ministry of Cities in 2003. This showed a mentality shift, however being hindered by old customs, the power of the rich and of the market.


Slum upgrading policies are relatively marginal. They partly take place under the name of Land Regulation. This involves both the legal as the spatial aspect of ‘adequate housing’ in favelas. However, exactly due to this two-sided approach, a chicken and egg situation occurs: to complete the regularization process, both the legal and the urbanistic situation have to be solved, leading to stagnating action. The intangible demand of housing, leading to ever growing informality is not being met.


The new housing production takes place under the name of Minha Casa Minha Vida, My House My Life. Very positive is that a great amount of public resources has been allocated to this programme. However, the programme shows problems; it produces numbers instead of quality, resulting in housing complexes that are of such a banality that it is hardly comprehensible that they are being produced in such high numbers in a modern country. Care for public space lacks and besides that, the locations of these complexes are often far from city centralities without sufficient urban services and infrastructure. Therefore the projects do not result to social inclusion, personal development, and happiness etc. Fortunately, the discussion on MCMV is alive and improvements are in process.


Brazil does show progress in urban and housing policies. Though the counter fluxes are strong and rapid, which creates a great ongoing immense challenge.



Renee Nycolaas, educated as urban planner at the University of Amsterdam. Since her studies she focuses on Brazilian cities, on different issues among which social housing, segregation and inclusion. She is Project Officer at the IFHP Latin American Office and she works for the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the PUCRS University in Porto Alegre with social housing projects, workshops for the students and publications.


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