How Affordable Housing and TOD Are Coming Together in Brazil

Luisa Zottis and Lara Caccia
The City Fix
July 1, 2015

Minha Casa Minha Vida Housing

The Minha Casa Minha Vida housing program in Brazil works to develop affordable housing for low-income populations consistent with TOD principles. Photo by GOVBA.

Nossa Cidade (“Our City”), from TheCityFix Brasil, explores critical questions for building more sustainable cities. Every month features a new theme. Leaning on the expertise of researchers and specialists in WRI’s sustainable urban mobility team in Brazil, the series will feature in depth articles on urban planning, sustainable mobility, gender, resilience, and other key themes for sparking more sustainable development in our cities.

An essential model for creating affordable and compact cities, transit-oriented development (TOD) is the theme of Nossa Cidade this month. So far, we’ve cover the seven principles of TOD and the economic benefits that TOD produces.

Today, we will explore how Minha Casa Minha Vida (MCMV – “My House My Life” in English)—Brazil’s affordable housing program—is transforming current patterns of urbanization in the country. MCMV has been responsible for a third of all low-income housing projects in Brazil in 2013 and is helping bridge the way we think about housing and TOD.

Putting MCMV in Context

Launched in 2009 by Brazil’s federal government, the MCMV has developed nearly 2.2 million housing units (UH) in five years, with an additional 3.9 million planned. The program is currently in its second phase and a third phase this year is in development with guaranteed funding.

This is the largest affordable housing initiative in the history of Brazil. In addition to reducing the deficit of the country’s low-incoming housing stock, MCMV aims to foster a stronger economy by funding local construction and giving people control over their housing.

Integrating Housing and Transit Planning

In addition to a roof over their heads, people need access to jobs and services in order to live well. MCMV is an opportunity for both. First of all, the program enables home ownership. Second, well-planned TOD can facilitate access to opportunities throughout the greater city.

However, the challenge is ensuring that the land where these homes will be developed is located close to the city center and well-served by public transit. Making this happen requires dealing with numerous political and economic barriers.

But it is possible. The city of Rio Grande designated empty land in the Junction neighborhood as an area of possible interest for MCMV—in order to avoid real estate speculation. The land was donated by the Federal Government to the city and it is an area that is already well-endowed with public services, infrastructure, and access to transport. The vision is to make the neighborhood home to 1,300 low-income families, where they can maintain their social relationships and have access to services, jobs, education, and health resources throughout the city. The project has been supported by WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities in Brazil and will be a model of TOD in the country. See the map below:

Map of MCMV project

Unfortunately, Rio Grande is an exception and not yet the rule. In many Brazilian cities, most development occurs in rapidly expanding residential areas with poor infrastructure, urban services, and transport. Disconnected and distant housing is a burden to both residents and local government. Residents must travel longer distances to access jobs, services, and housing. Local governments face higher costs of infrastructure development and service maintenance—like waste management and public utilities.


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