Minha Casa, Minha Vida Developments in Rio de Janeiro – Stepping Back to Informality
A recent online article published by GLOBO, Rio de Janeiro has reported that several of the larger Minha Casa, Minha Vida housing developments are witnessing a range of post-conclusion management issues – principally related to payment delinquencies on water, light, gas and condominium management costs (in some cases reaching 90%) as well as the growth of informal business activity, illegal energy tapping and even drug dealing.
Within Rio de Janeiro state, since the launch of the program in 2009, some 50,900 units have been delivered – currently housing approximately 200,000 residents. Out of this total, 17,600 (34%) are occupied by families earning between zero and three Brazilian minimum salary multiples (up to R$ 2,172 per month). These families were selected from the well-recognised long waiting list spread across the 92 municipalities – with priority being given to those living in high-risk areas. For this income group, there are a further 98,000 units that have been contracted or are under construction (66,000 of which are in the capital).
The example of the Condomínio Destri was quoted: 421 units in Senador Camará – the first Minha Casa, Minha Vida development in Rio de Janeiro to be inaugurated and, after 2 years of being inhabited, possesses debts of R$ 60,000 in electricity and R$ 40,000 in water bills. According to local residents association president, Arnaldo Rosa Bruzaco Filho such problems are common in these developments. Many residents do not feel the obligation to pay bills and there are a number of ongoing unresolved maintenance issues.
In the neighbouring Condomínio Ayres, also concluded and delivered in 2012, the situation is more serious with electricity debts accumulating R$ 100,000 and, with residents reluctant to pay bills, local utility services are being tapped into illegally. The 421 units were awarded to different favela communities from Rio de Janeiro, controlled by rival gangs. As a result, 90 apartments have since been abandoned due to residents feeling under threat, which have subsequently been invaded by those not registered under the Minha Casa, Minha Vida. Residents have also been extending out their units irregularly in addition to the mounting informally controlled bars. The local housing union reported to GLOBO that, residents have not been able to adjust to the formal living environment of a housing condominium and delinquency levels have already reached 90%.
In the Queimados municipality, the Valdoriosa apartment condominium of 1,500 units, delivered in 2012, experiences similar problems with further reports of drug dealing. The units are not being maintained due to a lack of funds to be able to contract the necessary services.
Economist Manuel Thedim, speaking to GLOBO, affirmed that low income levels mean that families have little other option other than setting up informal businesses, repeating the logic commonly found in the favelas. Sérgio Magalhães is even more critical, stating that the Minha Casa, Minha Vida should not even be called a “popular housing program” due to not taking into consideration residents´ expectations and real needs: “there is no involvement of the local communities themselves and, with housing credit in Brazil remaining restrictive, it is the government and the construction company who are deciding who is going to live in these units and where they are to be located.”
Acknowledging the problem of adaptation to more formal living environments, national secretary of housing at the Cities Ministry (Ministério das Cidades) Inês Magalhães nonetheless commented that 2% of the value of the developments being built for these income groups is directed to condominium management and internal social services, albeit not integrated fully in Rio de Janeiro to date. It was also affirmed that “preparatory” measures, aimed at orientating future residents, are initiated three months prior to keys being delivered – involving the clarification of any doubts in relation to condominium and other obligatory payments in addition to a recent campaign launch aimed at reducing delinquency (highlighting the importance of paying rates for the conservation of common areas).
The Caixa Econômica Federal is also funding research to identify solutions. A project launched in October 2013 in the Valdoriosa development mentioned above, expected to be concluded in 2015, aims at focusing towards four principal areas: (i) employment and income generation; (ii) youth and culture; (iii) women and socio-environmental activities and (iv) food supply / security. According to project coordinator and sociologist Paulo Magalhães, the housing developments undergo a process of institutionalisation aimed at appeasing the transfer between informality and formality – but this takes time. Without imposing any specific model, meetings are being held with residents to address the main concerns and explore how the development can become a more pleasant setting to live.