By Felicia Bryson, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Just a couple of weeks after Brazilian security forces took over nine favelas surrounding the Rio neighborhood of Santa Teresa, residents now await a real estate valuation, which is said to increase the area’s property value by around 30 percent within the next three months.
According to vice president of the Real Estate Market Association (Ademi), Rubem Vasconcellos, Santa Teresa, popular with artists, musicians and tourists alike could experience a property boom similar to the one which took place in Rio’s Tijuca neighborhood after a UPP (Police Pacification Unit) was established there in May 2010.
With its cobbled and winding roads, many of the old colonial buildings in Santa Teresa still stand, reminding of a once wealthier era, which residents hope to see revived again. However, some local homeowners fear that the implementation of UPPs will only disperse and relocate crime, forcing criminals operating in favelas encircling Santa Teresa to obtain money through other means.
“People around here are talking about it a lot. It would be good if prices went up, but it will also be a problem as they (drug dealers) will have to find a different way to make money. No one knows how effective this government program will be. Only time will tell.”, says Lucas Gabriel Nunes de Oliveira, referring to the attempt by the government to enforce public order.
Alexandre Magno, who recently bought a house on one of the main streets in Santa Teresa says that he does not feel safer or unsafer since the presence of the UPPs, but is concerned with the youngsters who were involved in drug crime: “I am curious to see what will happen without the drug business … They will need support.”
Alda Maria Talavera Campos, the owner of a small confectionery, Alda Maria Doces Portugueses, has been a Santa Teresa resident for 20 years and although she has always felt safe sleeping with open windows at night, knows that other residents haven’t.
Houses and apartments that previously stood empty because they were situated close to favelas and were subjected to frequent clashes between the police and traffickers, are now inhabited again.
“The value of houses will certainly rise. I am sure of that. There are people who have been waiting to sell their houses for a very long time”, she says.
With the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games looming, the city of Rio, which lost its capital status to Brasilia in 1960, has since experienced a large decline in security and therefore also in attracting business to the area. The government’s overall aim is to rid its neighborhoods of drug gangs, making them safer and more appealing to residents, visitors and investors.