Brazil’s Low-Income Housing Project Using TOD Guidelines Signs Contracts to Begin Construction
On August 20, 2016 the Junção Project, a low-income housing project in Rio Grande, Brazil signed contracts to begin construction of houses and apartments for 1,287 families. The project stands out for using transit-oriented development (TOD) principles—a model of urban planning focused on more compact neighborhoods and better public spaces. With Junção, Minha Casa, Minha Vida, Brazil’s national affordable housing program, has a strong example of developing homes for low-income families in a central urban area. The project will create an estimated 900 job opportunities for residents and provide capacity building workshops to improve community relationships.
The Junção Project is the result of a long-term partnership between Rio Grande and WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities that began in 2014. Since then, WRI’s Urban Development team has worked together with the city and the family cooperatives involved in the project to promote the benefits of TOD.
Bringing Transit-Oriented Development into a Housing Project
“Step hard on this land, for now it is yours,” remarked a representative of Rio Grande, marking the beginning of the Junção Project’s construction phase on August 20.
Junção is one of the newest projects of Brazil’s national Minha Casa, Minha Vida program, which aims to reduce the country’s housing deficit by guaranteeing affordable housing to families. Since 2009, the program has created more than 4 million houses and apartments for families with monthly incomes ranging from 1,600 to 5000 Brazilian Reals (approximately US $500 to $1550).
The gray marks Rio Grande’s urban areas, and the red is the area of the Junção Project.
In the case of Rio Grande, there are five housing cooperatives responsible for the project: Coopernova, Cooperarroio, Cootrahab, Cooperlar and Uniperfil. In 2013, the city surveyed families interested in the project. 1,287 families were selected based on national and municipal criteria like living in a risky area, having an an elderly and/or disabled member in the family or having a woman as the head of the family.
One of the main principles of TOD is to shift urban land use from the 3D model—distant, dispersed and disconnected—to the 3C model—compact, coordinated and connected. As a MCMV’s TOD project, the Junção Project will help change the public perspective of who can live in a central and connected part of the city—a luxury typically afforded to wealthier residents.
Nívea Oppermann with city officials of Rio Grande. Photo by Mariana Gil/WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities.
“This is the first project in which we could directly apply TOD concepts and help improve the project. We created a neighborhood center, prioritized non-motorized transport infrastructure such as bike paths and good sidewalks, increased road safety and planned design interventions to reduce conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles. These changes create favorable conditions to improve quality of life, and it was a great achievement for us to work together with all the stakeholders to make this happen,” said Nívea Oppermann, Urban Development Director of WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities.
Public Participation and Stable Housing Will Help Ensure Success
Residents have long lived in uncertainty about what lies ahead, but the Junção Project’s recent progress is a hopeful sign to many. “It took two and a half years of intense debates. Now we have a distinguishing project, with an open housing complex, no high walls, good infrastructure and sidewalks that will create a pleasant place for all residents. From now on, our challenge is to execute what we planned. It’s a big step for families, and our expectation is positive,” stated Joaquim Goulart, President of Coopernova and representative of the five cooperatives.
Lisângela Caurio Lobato, a teacher and leader of the National Movement of Struggle for Better Housing, has followed the project since its inception and believes that Junção will change people’s lives: “The goal is to guarantee housing in the absolute sense of the word, offering not only a space but access to urban infrastructure—to provide quality of life. The beneficiary families will leave the risk behind and have their own homes.”
Partners Jonathan Barbosa and Dienifer Tavares are happy to leave their temporary and borrowed house and finally have a property in their own name. They have high hopes for their four-year-old daughter, Micaela, and the benefits this change will bring to her life. “It’s important to have a school next to our home, so she won’t need to change school from time to time. And in this place we’ll have everything around, all the services that we need,” celebrated Dienifer. “This project meets a need that all cities have in housing. Rio Grande has a very large housing deficit, and now this is about to change a bit,” said Jonathan.
Including families in the decision making process continues to be important for the project’s success. A Project Monitoring Committee, composed of future residents, has helped represent the community’s interests throughout the process and will continue to be active during the construction phase, which should last approximately two years.
For example, Marcia Costa, a seamstress and law student, volunteered early on to participate in the Project Monitoring Committee. On a rainy day in 2009, Marcia got in the MCMV Program line, wanting a home of her own. Since then, she waited to be called, living in her sister’s garage. “I believe that all of this will raise our self-esteem and improve our quality of life. We are going to be part of a social housing project. It’s a privilege. We are making history. And it’s a way of showing that with willpower and perseverance we can get there,” said the future resident of Junção.
The Housing Secretary of Rio Grande, Gilmar Ávila, believes Junção will be an example for other housing complexes across the country. “Through the partnership with WRI, we are able to improve mobility and urban conditions. These families will have not only a place to stay, but a place to actually live.”
After all, the name of the area is not “Junção” (in English, junction or union) by chance. It’s the geographic center of the city and a home for people that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.