Living far away: Minha casa Minha Vida and the Metropolis expansion

Escolhas Institute Seminar presents an unpublished study with criticisms and suggestions to the largest housing program ever carried out in Brazil


Minha Casa MInha Vida program (MCMV) was the theme of the most recent study of the Escolhas Institute launched on Tuesday (January 22) at the seminar Housing and Expansion of Brazilian Metropolis held at the Policy and Economy Center of the Public Sector of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (CEPESP/EAESP/EESP) in São Paulo. Economics, architecture and urbanism professionals were present to discuss the research “Living Far Away: the Minha Casa Minha Vida Program and the expansion of the Metropolitan Regions” and also meet the new platform of the organization #QuantoÉ Morar Longe, launched on the same occasion . According to Sérgio Leitão, executive director of the Escolhas Institute, the study contributes to reflect on what will be the directions of housing policy in Brazil in the coming years. “Our proposal was to collect data that showed that the MCMV was right and that it could improve, as it is known that it contributed to the expansion of the urban spot in the large metropolis analyzed, something that also generates other problems such as the lack of basic services for the population”, he said.

Maria Aline Setubal fala sobre a importância da geração de dados para pautar políticas públicas

Maria Aline Setubal fala sobre a importância da geração de dados para pautar políticas públicas

Maria Aline Setubal talks about the importance of generating data to guide public policies

The opening of the Seminar was attended by representatives of partner organizations such as the Tide Setubal Foundation, in the figure of Maria Alice Setubal; Ciro Biderman of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation and Murilo Bussab of Folha de S.Paulo. For Maria Alice, the theme of housing in the context of large cities is relevant in the quest to generate well-being and dignified life for the people. “Even more so in a current context where we have seen total discredit for scientifically based research that evidence the most aggravating social frameworks we have in the country today. Knowledge based on real data should rather support public policy decisions”, she said.
Researcher Martha Hiromoto, an economist with a PhD in public administration and an associate researcher of the study, said that in the municipalities where MCMV is most prevalent, the tendency is that not only the program does not fill the urban spaces; it tends to leap more the urban spots. “This does not allow municipalities to take advantage of their urbanized areas to provide social inclusion for low-income families. The Regions of São Luís (MA) and Belo Horizonte (MG) are examples of this, where the units of the program are located more on the edge of the urban border, outside the spot”, she explained.

But, Vitória (ES) is an example of natural growth and this happens, according to Hiromoto, because coastal towns in the Southeast have sea on one side and continent on the other, having a smaller urban leap due to its geography. But does the price of land have anything to do with it? The closer to the edge, the cheaper is the land to be built. “Myopia to save on land prices creates a higher cost for public coffers in the long run, an account that is not easy to do, but the impact on the quality of life and health of citizens is considerable, and as well as the cost of infrastructure that must be created to provide basic service to families. So it’s more expensive”, she said.


Ciro Biderman apresenta os resultados da pesquisa

Ciro Biderman apresenta os resultados da pesquisa

Ciro Biderman presents the research results

Professor Ciro Biderman, from FGV, pointed out that the study is focused on Track 1, with families that have up to 3 minimum wages as income. In addition, the research has several approaches and even compares with other housing programs in countries such as Mexico and Chile. “The land market in Brazil has many imperfections and induces the person to live farther away, but the externalities that this causes such as lack of sanitation, health and mobility problems and the costs of this decision are not taken into account.” If the intention was to get these people out of precariousness and bring them closer, in order to include them with citizenship, apparently that was not what happened”, he said.
In the macro scale, Ciro explained that the metropolis that made fewer units of the program, built better sets. On the micro scale, sets with many housing units eventually became ghettos. “We never thought of a land policy to really solve the problem of housing in Brazil. This was an attempt. But we should ask ourselves if it is possible that a child living in MCMV will live better than his father in the future. Will be?” he asks.

What are the impacts of the program on the Brazilian metropolitan regions?

Despite the advances in the attempt to solve the housing problem in the great Brazilian metropolis, the MCMV was insufficient. According to Eduardo Zylberstajn, an engineer and doctor in economics, a researcher at the Foundation for Economic Research (Fipe/USP), there is growing evidence that the type of housing a child has impacts his or her personal development and social construction for the adult life. “Worrying about this is a moral and economic issue and even though the public policies have good intentions, the economic cost of them count. The MCMV has merits, but for some cities it was not suitable and in that sense the densification can be a good way out”, he said.

For the architect and urbanist Luciana Royer, who teaches at the Urban Planning Disciplines Group at FAU-USP, we should not point out mistakes or guilty, as this does not help us think about the issue of social housing in Brazil. The fact is that the MCMV created a financial system that, for the first time since 1964, reached low-income families, something great and unprecedented in the country. “The housing problem in Brazil is a problem of land and credit, are issues of land policy and urban policy. The program is successful in articulating resources coming from FGTS and creating grant designs, trying to connect different public agents”, he said. And who are these agents? The teacher explains that who defines the use and the occupation of the land is the municipality via Law of Zoning of the Strategic Plan, and who takes care of the notaries and the securitisation of the lands is the state agent, submitted to the judicial power. While the credit policy is national. “These are understandings that we need to have to interfere well in the MCMV results, in addition, the economic disparity between municipalities is big, not to mention the issue of condominialization of life, when you have a allotment that the condominium is responsible for managing, something of the private scope, which raises the monthly cost of housing. Yet the urban design of social housing differs from the idea of closed condominium, with walls and fences that promotes this ghettomovement”, he says.

Economist Renato Lomonaco, representative of the Brazilian Association of Real Estate Developers (ABRAINC), reaffirmed the importance of the program by quoting economic data from the MCMV, which has built almost 5 million houses since 2009, generated more than 400 billion credits from it and around 1.3 million jobs a year on average. “If we think that today we have a housing deficit of 7.8 million families, the importance of the program is massive, it is a lot of home to be built, but we need to make adjustments. Perhaps Track 1 was not the best choice because it consumed a lot of fiscal money not only from the FGTS, a fund that is very compromised nowadays, having been released for purposes other than housing by the last governments”, he explained. As a suggestion, Lomonaco points to the construction of smaller and more sustainable sets. According to him, the issue of credit is a point of greater attention in the housing sector, because we need three times more the value that has been signed today, that is 100 billion. “The program is vital for Brazil, but we need to do it by consuming the minimum resources of the Union, something that could be done by Track 2 or Track 3”, he said.

Eduardo Zylberstajn defende o aluguel social como alternativa ao MCMV

Eduardo Zylberstajn defende o aluguel social como alternativa ao MCMV

Eduardo Zylberstajn defends social rent as an alternative to MCMV

Social rent appears as another improvement suggestion to solve the lack of housing. Eduardo Zylberstajn highlighted the Brazilian’s attachment to his own home as a property. On one hand, this esteem of the property is good because it generates belonging to the neighborhood, the community, makes people want to take care of their region, but on the other hand, the options of work for these people are reduced since they are stuck to a property/locality. “Rent is not well seen in Brazil, but there are programs in other countries where social rent exists and was well deployed with a financial expense of up to 30% of the family income and the surplus of that, the government provides a voucher to supplement the cost of his housing. It is possible to do via public resource and subsidies and maybe it is a good way to meet the demands where the MCMV was not enough”, he concluded.

Is it possible to densify the large Brazilian metropolis?

The construction of social housing in large metropolitan centers, taking advantage of empty spaces and idle buildings, is a way of revitalizing central areas, generating local commerce, encouraging citizen coexistence, leisure and culture, as well as facilitating not only the creation of new jobs , as well as the possibility of greater access by the population to existing work opportunities. The strengthen of the great metropolis was debated by researchers and politicians at the last table of the Housing and Expansion Seminar of the Metropolis and it was emphasized that the concept is not understood in its totality by the common sense of the population.



Bruno Araújo, former Minister of Cities of the Temer government, talks about the difficulties of housing management

Bruno Araújo, lawyer,  licensed Federal Deputy and former Minister of State of the Temer Government (2016/2017), said that the big problem is where and how to implement the MCMV, because financially the program was creative in using the FGTS to finance Track 1, in addition to delimit the complexes by up to 500 units. “The point is that Caixa Econômica thinks as a bank, not as a town planner. In addition, the criteria for the choice of the beneficiary families were not known, and there were many problems in supervising the use of the property provided, people who rented illegally or sold ahead of time, or people who were in fact not poor, can be a good alternative via Public Private Partnership (PPP)”, he said.


The refusal to densify by a large part of the population is due to the fact that there is an existing social construction of disapproval of the poor, already deeply rooted in Brazil according to Sergio Leitão, Executive Director of Escolhas Escolhas Institute. “Although we all know that social inequality in Brazil should be combated, no one wants a housing complex near their home, a building shading their pool, or that it will devalue the apartments of a certain region of the city”, he said when explaining the difficulties in applying the densify.


Philip Yang, former Diplomat (1992/2002) and founder of URBEM, an institution dedicated to the structuring of urban projects, commented that it is a problem of a social nature, therefore with economic consequences that prevent the country’s growth. With this, the worker sleeps less and less every night, from 2 am to 3 am in traffic, implying public health and general productivity of the country. There is a lot of resistance in changing social status in Brazil because there are interests behind this dystopian culture”, explained Yang, who also stressed that we need to focus on improving the regulatory frameworks of cities, such as the São Paulo Strategic Plan and law of zoning, which make it possible to consolidate with proposals from civil society under the command of the city.

Philip Yang aponta os motivos da recusa do adensamento nas cidades

Philip Yang aponta os motivos da recusa do adensamento nas cidades

Philip Yang points out the reasons for the densification refusal in cities

Tatiane Menezes, professor at the Department of Economics of UFPE, showed in her speech the importance of urban planning for the densification process, presenting the case of Recife. According to her, the price of the square meter of real estate decreases, allowing a greater number of people with housing access. “Merging is more democratic and cheaper, because it takes advantage of the urban structure that already exists in that place, while when the city spreads, the poor are being pushed further and further without any access to basic services. However, there are negative points as well, because a 40-storey building has in it a lot of reinforced concrete that overheats the cities temperature, in addition, the public roads become saturated, there is a lot of demand for services such as depletion, water, energy. So, before you get bigger you need to plan well and observe the riverbanks, natural ventilation, climate, ensure the mobility of the population and preserve the structure and it is not the real estate market that will do this, but the public power with the necessary interventions”, he explained.

Tatiane Menezes, da UFPE, apresenta dados de Recife sobre adensamento

Tatiane Menezes, da UFPE, apresenta dados de Recife sobre adensamento

Tatiane Menezes, from UFPE, presents densification data from Recife

The importance of MCMV is undeniable in trying to mitigate the problem of the housing deficit in Brazil. It is the largest housing program ever deployed until now, built since the launch (2009) by 2016, 4.4 million homes in 5,563 cities nationwide with investments that turn around 319 billion. The summary and the full study are now available on Escolhas website.