By Helen Trouten Torres, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Over forty of Rio’s favelas are to lose their ‘unofficial’ status and be reclassified as official municipal ‘urban communities’ under new city hall minimum quality standards. The plans were announced following studies by the city’s Department of Housing (SMH) and the Institute of Pereira Passos (IPP). The number of favelas in Rio remains a debate though, the federal government department (AFC) reports there are 1,020 favelas, while the city of Rio’s Department of Housing lists 582, as part of the current public policy program ‘Morar Carioca’.
Under the recount, favelas with a maximum of 193 households were set aside due to representing a very different urbanization challenge to public policy makers than the huge favelas which are home to hundreds and thousands of people. The study concluded that 44 of Rio’s favelas have parameters similar to those of the city’s official neighborhoods and thus should be granted urban community status.
The evaluation for reclassification was based on four considerations, the first was basic services, including infrastructure such as paved streets, regulated water, electricity, sanitation, refuse and sewage services. Also evaluated were the existence of public facilities, such as community day care, sports centers and public parks.
Secondly, the criterion examines the number of residents who legally own their properties and whether the community has processes in place to control illegal building. Thirdly, is the assumption that residents have access to education and health services.
Included in this list of ex-favelas are nine communities in the Zona Sul (South Zone) of the city including Santa Marta (Botafogo), Cerro-Corá (Cosme Velho) and Vidigal (Leblon/São Conrado). Rio’s first ever favela, Providência (Centro) and Complexo do Alemão (North zone), the scene of last year’s violent pacification process, will also be urbanized including plans to build cable cars to improve access to the neighborhoods’ steep streets with the aim of better integrating the communities with the surrounding city.
“The reclassification is a matter of paramount importance to removing prejudice and promoting a more positive image of the favela communities” the President of the AFC, Ricardo Henriques, announced.
The fourth criteria are security and law enforcement. Not all 44 of the favelas have been ‘pacified’ under the UPP program, including Vidigal and Favela Fernão Cardim (Pilares) bringing their re-labeling under scrutiny.
“The first condition has to be that the state itself can take over the territory. Even with above average infrastructure and services, without state control of territory, the site will continue as a favela” said economist Sergio Besserman, former president of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) to O Globo newspaper.
The regional president of the Institute of Architects of Brazil (IAB-RJ), Sérgio Magalhães, also stated that security is a fundamental prerequisite for an area that is integrated with the city. “Without security, all public utilities are dwarfed” he told O Globo.
The deputy governor and secretary of state for public works, Luiz Fernando Pezão, emphasized that peace is a prerequisite for becoming an urban community.