Brazil’s Housing Plans for the Poor Look Good Only on Paper

Housing in Alagoas The two most recent floods that have hit Brazil have served to underline the major bureaucratic risks that continue to stain the nation as well as the sheer ineptness of the government’s understanding of core housing needs. 

After floods hit the state of Alagoas in June 2010, over 3,000 families worst affected continue living under plastic sheeting and insalubrious conditions. 

Yet, whilst being close to completion, it was recently announced to camp residents that the new housing units can only be allocated to those who are willing and able to pay between 50 and 160 reais (US$ 28 and US$ 90) per month – despite being previously promised as donations – which most are claiming is beyond affordability. 

With a total of 113 million reais (US$ 63 million) allocated by the government for the purpose of constructing the homes under the Minha Casa, Minha Vida [My House, My Life] donation program, the Alagoas state authorities claim that they had no prior knowledge of the signed contracts which contained the financial obligations. 

To date, administrators of the Caixa Econômica Federal are standing firm in refusing to negotiate and – whilst the state has ‘promised’ that a solution will be achieved – nothing has yet been confirmed.

In January, Dilma Rousseff’s first weeks as President were tested with the onset of flash flooding in the state of Rio de Janeiro (which mainly affected the municipalities of Petrópolis, Teresópolis and Nova Friburgo) where she stated upon seeing the damage: “When there aren’t housing policies, where are people who earn no more than twice the minimum wage going to live?”. 

However, her sentiments have been subsequently followed through with very little definitive action.  Whilst a number of installations have been made in order to curb the effects of potential future flooding, the majority of the victims remain without any form of decent housing except for the noble efforts of the CARE Brasil charity who have been donating basic construction materials. 

Amongst allegations of funds being held back inexplicably and other bureaucratic issues, state government promises of delivering 7 thousand homes have barely got off the ground bar the announcement that works will be started on the 1,655 unit Fazenda Ermitage and 168 unit Fazenda Santa Cruz projects – no other plans have been stated for the other housing creation. 

Ruban Selvanayagam is a Brazil real estate and land specialist – head to his blog and resource site via as well as a low income housing program he is partnered with via


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