By Katya Gubarev, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The rental market in the favela community of Rocinha is about to expand after the 144-unit apartment complex built by the government’s PAC, Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (Program of Growth Acceleration) was inaugurated on December 21, 2010.
These new homes are starting to change the dynamic of the housing market in Rocinha, which like most favelas, primarily exists as illegally built, sparse structures providing the minimum shelter afforded.
The expectation is that 144 families will move into the apartments, increasing the number of rentals available, and fueling a trend of higher end rentals in the area.
The accommodation options in the new development range from a single room to a renovated two-bedroom apartment. The prices fluctuate, depending on the size and the location of the property. Most locals can’t afford higher prices, therefore the majority of the rentals are studio and one-bedroom apartments.
“Located at the bottom of the favela, a studio can be up to R$450 monthly, but the same thing on Rua 3 for example can be rented for R$250”, explains Zezinho, a resident and tour business owner in Rocinha.
Jean de Oliviera Seixas, who works in the Passárgada real estate agency, shares that his higher end rentals are usually between R$700 and R$900. A tour through one of these apartments reveals a clean two-bedroom place with a kitchen and a bathroom, located on the principal street, Estrada da Gávea, and facing the new brightly-colored PAC development.
“On this street the rentals always tend to be higher because of the accessibility,” explains Jean, “it is a sought-after location.” Larger houses or apartments in this price range can also have a stunning view from the top of Rocinha, sometimes on a small adjoined terrace.
To rent a property, usually a long-term contract of thirty months has to be signed, which leaves mainly Cariocas in the market. But Passárgada also rents to foreigners for shorter periods of time, one to six months, keeping the same monthly fees.
It may seem economically enticing to move to Rocinha after comparing the price of a similar two-bedroom apartment in Botafogo for R$1500. The government is improving the infrastructure, investing a total of R$272 million through PAC in the area of housing, urban mobility, sanitation and community spaces, like the Eco Park.
“Rocinha is changing,” confirms Zezinho, “but it is still a favela.” He says that in his experience most foreigners who choose to live in Rocinha are involved in social and development projects in the community. “I love Rocinha,” says Zezinho demonstrating large detailed tattoos of his neighborhood covering his shins and arms, “but it is not like any other area.”
An American living in Rio also offers, “A friend of mine grew up there, and she had a nice one bedroom apartment on the main street, newly renovated and spacious, I was jealous.” But then he continues, “There were nights though, that she had to sleep on the floor because trafficantes we shooting at police helicopters and vice-a-versa.”
The next few months will have an affect on the real estate market, as the possibility of the upcoming UPP pacification of Rocinha has many residents fearing violence. But while there may be a decrease in demand for housing in the short-term, the long-term outlook is positive for the community.