One million nine hundred thousand people live in favelas (shantytowns)
in São Paulo, a million in slum tenements, and around
three million in precarious housing. This reality worsens
every year. The number of people living in favelas evolved
from one million two hundred thousand in 1990 to almost two
million in the year 2000. The number of tenements also grew.
Precarious housing on the outskirts (in areas that are not
urbanized) grew at a frightening pace. The population living
on the street grew to almost 15,000.
Housing: A right and a struggle
to housing is a major problem in Brazilian cities. The housing
deficit in Brazil has reached 6 million families. The problem
requires building new units, as well as adopting adequate
city of São Paulo is a good example of the dramatic
picture at the national level. One million nine hundred thousand
people live in favelas (shantytowns), a million in slum tenements,
and around three million in precarious housing. This reality
worsens every year. The number of people living in favelas
grew from one million two hundred thousand in 1990 to almost
two million in the year 2000. The number of tenements also
grew. Precarious housing on the outskirts (in areas that are
not urbanized) grew at a frightening pace. The population
living on the street grew to almost 15,000.
factors that create the housing drama in the city of São
Paulo are various. But the primary ones are as follows:
a) Low wages: Wages do not even cover a third of the basic
necessities for low-income workers;
b) Unemployment affects 2 million people in São Paulo.
c) The drastic real-estate speculation that raises the price
of houses and of rent (while the average inflation was 92.5%,
rents went up by 538.68%);
d) Public finances drained by IMF policies. The city of São
Paulo alone is required to block more than R$1 billion per
year to pay the debt.
factors combined exclude the homeless workers from the urbanized
regions. They are pushed to the outskirts, areas that cannot
be considered either rural or urban space because they have
no infrastructure. In many cases they are areas alongside
workers do not have access to dignified housing. As a result,
they are excluded from the urban regions, while in the city
there are more than 400 buildings and entire lots that have
been closed or under-utilized for 5 to 15 years.
IBGE/2000 census quantified São Paulo's housing contradiction.
Alongside 420,327 empty dwellings, there exist millions of
homeless workers. The population of the city center went down
by 20%: 101,327 people left this urban region in the last
10 years, leaving nearly 20,000 empty dwellings.
migration of approximately 600,000 people from São
Paulo to the outskirts of the city, such as Itaquaquecetuba,
Francisco Morato and Ferraz de Vasconcelos, follows the same
logic as that shown in the table above.
to the expulsion of low-income workers from the urbanized
regions is the build-up of large pockets of precarious housing
and favelas. Workers are forced to get away from high rents,
and go to the favelas, to the banks of rivers, to risky areas
or to completely degraded housing, in overcrowded conditions.
to the Center for the Study of the City (Centro de Estudo
da Metrópole), the city gains a new favela every eight
days. From 1991 to 2000, 464 favelas were raised. On an average,
74 people become favela dwellers every day. While the city's
population grew by 8% in that period (1991 - 2000), the number
of people in favelas grew 30%.
internal migration is provoked by the following facts: low
salaries, unemployment, economic policies that prevent investment
in productive sectors, and real-estate speculation. This last
factor prevents access of low-income workers to housing and
makes it impossible to build affordable housing. As soon as
the region receives public investment, the urban infrastructure
is put in place and the price of real estate doubles.
housing programs that exist today do not serve families who
earn even three times the minimum wage. Therefore, low-income
workers continue to be displaced from urbanized regions.
with this situation, action is necessary on three combined
1. To dedicate public resources to a housing program for low-income
families, in order to keep workers in the urbanized areas,
near the labor market, assisted by complementary social programs.
To consolidate permanent public policies to assist families
who earn under three minimum salaries.
2. To create policy instruments for urban development that
control the use of urban property, implementing the social
function of property. To use the laws that already exist,
such as the Federal Constitution, the Civil Code, the City
Statute, and the Director Plan, to give a social function
to the empty and abandoned housing. But it is necessary to
advance even more; it's necessary to put forward laws that
allow expropriation of abandoned properties. Without an adequate
fight against real-estate speculation, the city will not be
able to receive its workers.
3. Finally, the homeless workers need to build up their grassroots
organizations. They need to build groups that struggle for
housing in all the districts, and work with the organized
communities of homeless people. People need to take collective
actions to make the right to housing a reality.
Manoel Del Rio is a lawyer and an advisor with the MSTC (Movimento
Sem Teto do Centro, Homeless Movement of the Center)