Brazil’s 2010 census estimated that 22 percent of Rio de Janeiro’s population lives in informal settlements or slums, called favelas. The majority of these lack adequate sanitation or building standards, leading to water pollution, soil degradation, methane emissions from waste, as well as a host of other social, health and safety issues for residents. The Morar Carioca Program, also called the Municipal Plan for the Integration of Informal Settlements, aims to provide integrated development and services through the Municipal Secretary of Housing (SMH) to incorporate these areas into the more formal communities that they generally border. Through holistic urban planning, re-zoning, infrastructure upgrading, housing improvements, regularisation of land tenure, City services extensions, and concentrated monitoring, this priority of the Rio de Janeiro city government aims to formalise all of the City’s favelas by 2020, improving living conditions for up to 232,000 households.
At Babilônia and Chapéu Mangueira, two favelas located at Leme (next to Copacabana), the focus of the project was to reduce carbon emissions whilst spurring sustainable practices and approaches such as LED outdoor lighting and selective waste collection. At Babilônia, the City of Rio built 16 “green houses” and paved the Ary Barroso Hill, which provides access to the communities, with a mix of asphalt and recycled car tyres.
So far, 68 favelas are being re-urbanised, providing direct benefits to more than 65,000 households, with a total investment of 2.1 billion reals. The aim is to keep people within their own communities, only relocating those currently occupying areas under high risk of landslides. Since 2009, nearly 20,000 families have been relocated, and the goal is to resettle all those living under risky conditions until 2016.
The project is set to benefit up to 232,000 households by 2020, through a partnership between municipal and federal governments, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Brazilian Institute of Architects (Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil, IAB-RJ). IAB-RJ has selected 40 companies through a public call for tender to develop the projects in the favelas.
Successfully converting slums into formal housing is a difficult task and urban development experts consider the public policy around this particular initiative to be one of the most challenging areas to get right. As such, Rio’s efforts are genuinely trying to avoid past errors and forge a sustainable solution by integrating the favelas into the city.