By Ashley Cantor, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – An address in Rio’s favelas has been a badge of honor for those gringos with the salt for living amongst well-armed traficantes, and willing to trade-off certain amenities and security for the much lower rents. Now, with the famous Zona Sul (South Zone) favelas Rocinha and Vidigal recently occupied by pacification forces, and the subsequent urban planning and legalization of property, many are anticipating big changes in the real estate market.
Rocinha is often considered to be the largest favela community in Brazil, and with an estimated 150,000 residents (some say as many as 300,000). It is so large it has bus lines, pharmacies, banks, and at one time even a McDonalds, as well as its own mini-boroughs.
In the Barcelos area for instance, a resident can find a wide variety of stores and services in addition to better developed real estate. In other areas such as Vila Macega, the majority of the housing is simple wooden shacks set in precarious perches. In this area, many of the families live in extreme poverty.
The more desirable areas in Rocinha include many middle class households, fully fitted with first rate plumbing and electricity, cable and internet. These areas have boomed recently, and the interest has led to the construction of some taller buildings, although not all are properly zoned.
The demand for Rocinha rentals continues to grow, as is shown by the waiting list for available rentals, and it is expected to increase after the occupation and planned UPP this April.
Also, on November 27th, it was reported that 13,000 families throughout the Rocinha and Vidigal favelas will receive legal titles to their property in 2012. An estimated one-third of all families in Rocinha and one-half of those living in Vidigal will have their properties regularized by the state Department of Housing.
While many are expecting a real estate price boom, some remain skeptical about the growth potential. Zezinho, owner of a favela tour business and Rocinha native says, “People can increase their asking prices but who will buy?”
“There is still a stigma attached to living in a favela. I know of a place that they are trying to sell for R$112,000, but nobody is going to pay that when you can find cheaper options outside of the favela,” he explains.
Even before the occupation force moved into Rocinha this month, the city has earmarked programs to help develop the community using funding from the PAC, Programa de Aceleracao. The local government has also built a new ecological park at the top of Rocinha.
However, Carlos Roverto Osorio, a municipal secretary of conservation, claims the most important issue is correcting the waste collection system, stating “Rocinha is a city that grew in an unplanned way with few access roads for trucks and equipment. Establishing the new system will require commitment.”
Over 100 tons of garbage is collected in Rocinha everyday, although the estimated production is much higher, leaving waste to accumulate in the streets.
While amenities remain underdeveloped and many residents are living in poverty-stricken conditions, Rocinha’s appeal remains due to the relatively low cost of living, strong sense of community, and proximity to the picturesque beaches of Leblon and Ipanema.