Living in Rocinha: Post Pacification

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.

The largest favela community in Rio, Rocinha, Rio de janeiro, Brazil News

The largest favela community in Rio, Rocinha, photo by Alicia Nijdam/Flickr Creative Commons License.

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.

Many properties in Rocinha are set to become legalized, Favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Many properties in Rocinha are set to become legalized, photo by Alicia Nijdam/Flickr Creative Commons License.

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.

10 Responses to "Living in Rocinha: Post Pacification"

  1. M. Arielle L'Herisse  December 2, 2011 at 12:47 AM

    It is great that people will have title to their property but doubtful that there will be a demand for or interest in property in the favela by people who can afford to buy property elsewhere due to the type of construction available, living conditions, and uncertainty related to the improvement of infrastructure and services throughout the favela. There are still many unsafe/unstable structures within the favela and crime will not disappear completely because of the UPP’s. Drugs will continue to be sold on a smaller scale and go largely undetected by cops just like everywhere else inthe world. I can imagine that people renting houses in the worse of the favels may seek out opportunities to move to the larger favelas wih more services and better houses, but they will be the only ones.

    What probably will happen as it gets closer to the World Cup and the Olypmics is that developers from other countries will offer all of the residents of the favelas money to move out and then tear the entire place down and replace it with high end condos, neighborhoods, businesses, and attractions catering to tourists. The area is prime for that type of venture and it won’t take lots of cash to entice poor favela residents to sell. People who do not get legal ownership papers will probably be summarily evicted by force. I am amazed that the City of Rio and The Brazilian Government have allowed the favelas to grow so large and the people to be subjected to such dire living conditions and crime for so long. To my understanding, they began builing them nthe 1950′s (more than 60 years). It is sad that the prospect of lucrative sporting events is the only reason that people in the favelas are finally getting the protection, legal ownership papers, sanitation, and services they deserve. Clearly, not everyone in the favela is a drug dealer, addict, or thief.

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  3. Charles Scott  December 2, 2011 at 5:54 PM

    @M.Arielle L’Herisse, Excellent Observation.

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