By Chesney Hearst, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With residents of several favela communities in Rio de Janeiro facing resettlement and others having already been removed from their homes to make way for 2016 Olympic infrastructure development, the longstanding community of Vila Autódromo is pushing back with their Plano Popular da Vila Autódromo.
Founded by fishermen in 1967 on the shore of the Jacarepaguá Lagoon in Rio’s Zona Oeste (West Zone), the neighborhood’s proximity to Barra da Tijua – one of the main areas in which the 2016 Olympic Games will take place-has put some of Vila Autódromo’s homes again at risk of demolition.
The community of an estimated 4,000 people has proven resilient in the past by staving off several possible evictions, most notably in 1992 due to city claims of environmental damage and in 2007 during Rio’s preparations to host the Pan American games.
This time with the help of the Núcleo Experimental de Planejamento Conflitual (ETTERN/IPPUR/UFRJ), residents have written a proposal, the Plano Popular da Vila Autódromo, stating their housing and human rights and resistance to relocation.
Theresa Williamson, Executive Director of Catalytic Communities (CatComm), an NGO non-profit, told The Rio Times that, “The plan is an important tool in showing that the community has the support of architects and planners from Rio’s universities, and that the upgrading of the community is possible and practical.”
The plan sites the 1988 Federal Constitution, the 1966 UN General Assembly housing resolution (signed by Brazil in 1992) and law 11124 of the State Constitution and Municipal Organic Law (Constituição Estadual e a Lei Orgânica Municipal) and proposes that its citizens have the right to decide their own city planning.
Emphasizing a desire to set their own objectives and determine their priorities for themselves, stating that all residents should have access to housing and public facilities and services. They want to improve their community not leave it. The plan also asserts that it, “rejects the involuntary removal of any resident.”
Williamson says, “Vila Autódromo has wide roads and well-built housing. It is a relatively easy favela to upgrade. Evicting and relocating residents is exponentially more costly than upgrading the community.”
In January of this year the people of Vila Autodromo took their battle concerning lack of planning for their future resettlement in the bidding process to court and won a temporary stay. The bidding on the project was delayed but eventually resumed.
The official reasons have again shifted emphasis, now siting a need for removal due to future Transolympic and Transcarioca Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor pathways that will run through the area.
The government maintains that it will provide adequate resettlement housing most likely through the Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My Home, My Life) program. However, the people of Vila Autódromo consider the land they’re on as theirs with a state land title having been given to the community in 1994 allotting them a 99-year period of ownership of the land.