Housing: the challenge of the big cities

Allocate social function for idle real estate properties in central areas shall be a priority

The question of housing is a chronic problem in the big urban centers of Brazil and the world. With the population increasingly living in the cities, something that shall achieve 68% in 2050 according to UN’s data, it becomes a priority for government and public managers. It is important to find solutions to such challenge in order to abandon the practices already usual in Brazil that allocate to the low income population housing in peripheral lands, with little or no structure, without collective transportation and sanitation. That because what determines such option for more distant constructions is the cost of the land in metropolitan regions. As less infrastructure and more distant, as cheaper the land is. It is the theme of the most recent study of Instituto Escolhas, released in the last week, which reflected over the program Minha Casa Minha Vida (MCMV) (My Home My Life) and the expansion of the Brazilian large cities.

There are many criticisms in relation to MCMV for not establishing requirements regarding the place of construction of the housing units and offer of quality services, having as consequence the deepening of the segregation of the poorest ranges of the population, and the inequality of opportunities between who lives downtown and who will live far. There already are legal provisions in the national scope, such as the Constitution and the Statute of the Cities, which attempt to support initiatives that are concerned in giving social meaning to real estate properties in the central areas of the cities, many of which abandoned or sub-used.

The research “Living Far: My House My Life Program (Minha Casa Minha Vida) and the expansion of the Metropolitan Regions” assessed the phenomenon of the urban stain (areas of the cities urbanized with buildings and infrastructure) in 20 metropolitan regions: Belém, Belo Horizonte, Campinas, Cuiabá, Curitiba, Distrito Federal, Florianópolis, Fortaleza, Goiânia, Manaus, Palmas, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Santos, São Luís, São Paulo, Teresina, and Vitória. The conclusion the researchers achieved is that the urban stain grew where the federal program constructed more houses, that is, it did not occupy areas that are inhabited or void spaces within the cities, but regions outside them.

But is really there void space next downtown to be occupied? In São Paulo, the housing deficit is estimated at around 474 thousand houses according to the city hall. Municipal law of 2010 and the Strategic Master’s Plan, of 2014, already typify idle real estate properties, which compose a list around 1,098 real estate properties in total. They are those not built in area over 500 m², the sub-used (with built area lower than the required one) and not used (which has at least 60% of the built area empty for more than one year).

A recent editorial of Folha de São Paulo pointed out that after a period when the municipal management notified a high number of owners so that they observe the social functions of the real estate properties under penalty of the payment of progressive IPTU (Property Tax), such notifications dropped a lot in the following governments. In 2017, under João Doria (PSDB), the notifications felt from 509 in the previous year (Haddad), to 59; in 2018, in Bruno Covas’ management (PSDB), they were only 8, according to data of the Municipal Office of Urbanism and Licensing .

Although the progressive IPTU has started its collection in 2016, a few notified properties fully complied with the obligations – nor 10% of the total. Even though, the collection of the city of São Paulo with such recovery and punitive measure was R$ 30 million in two years, which evidences that we shall not waive such policy in search for social justice.

São Paulo’s elected governor, João Doria, just announced his housing program that promises to fund the construction of projects of the private initiative on lands donated by the city halls with fiscal exemption with part of the units intended to popular housing. The percentage will be calculated from the reference price of each venture, to be defined according to the location. A minimum percentage of 30% was established of the units of each construction to the program.

#Quantoé? Morar Longe (How much is to live far?)

Instituto Escolhas, understanding that housing is an important factor to reflect about our cities, and taking into account that the location thereof may generate high impacts on the urban mobility, released the platform #Quanto é? Morar Longe (How much is to live far?), which enables that the citizen knows the monetary and non-monetary costs associated to each area of the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo (RMSP), in addition to also include an analysis about generation of pollutants with environmental consequences, among other indicators.

“The impacts of the expansion of the Brazilian big cities need to be assessed under the point of view of public health, including the physical and psychological costs of who need to spend hours in traffic”, explains Sérgio Leitão, executive officer of Escolhas The platform was developed from the results of the study “Living Far: My Home My Life Program and the expansion of the Metropolitan Regions”, and of the results of the Master degree thesis of the former scholarship Ricardo Campante Cardoso Vale of the Scholarship Program Escolhas Economy and Environment Chair “The costs of well-being of the traffic jam in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo”.

Access the full study here

Check the platform #QuantoÉ? Morar Longe (How much is to live far?)