By Maria Conde, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The state of Rio issued 2,091 land titles to residents in the iconic favela Rocinha last Friday. These are the first of 9,000 titles the Instituto de Terras e Cartografia do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, (ITERJ – Institute of Lands and Cartography of the State of Rio de Janeiro) is planning to deliver to the people of this hillside community this year.
Rocinha, once notorious for drug-related violence, is often considered the largest favela in South America. It was dramatically occupied in November 2011 by security forces, and received a Police Pacification Unit (UPP) in September 2012.
“Rocinha is an emblematic community,” State Secretary of Housing, Leonardo Picciani, said. “It’s a community that, since pacification, has been transforming positively and changing the lives of people for the better and property titles are here to crown that work.”
“This gives families the right to their property and these are families that, for the last 30, 40 years, have been sacrificing, using their savings to build their homes and had no legal peace of mind that the property was, in fact, their own, and that one day it would be their children’s or grandchildren’s, and we are giving them that certainty,” Picciani affirmed.
Many of the original favela residents were squatters and most residents do not have legal claim to the homes they have raised families in for decades. In most of these communities there are also little social services provided, including access to clean water, trash collection and sewage systems.
The process to legalize property in Rochinha began in 2012, at the time, over three thousand families prepared documents to receive property titles, but only 2,091 had the correct proof of residence documentation ready and received their titles last week. It is estimated that over 8,364 people will benefit from them eventually.
Families were given administrative terms, which will become permanent property titles after five years. The area that was regularized used to belong to a company that was expropriated.
Maria Aparecida dos Santos, a retired resident of Rocinha, received her property title last Friday. “Now I have the certainty that no one will take away my house. I built that property and it was there that I raised my son. Having the proper titles is a relief, because I know I am leaving something for him. I’m very relieved and happy,” dos Santos said upon receiving it.
Governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral, lauded the state’s effort to grant land titles at an event at Rocinha last Friday, referring to it as a “social revolution.”
“We are combining safety, peace with citizenship, housing, urbanization, recreation areas, culture … it’s a summary of actions that are changing generations in Rocinha,” Cabral said.
“One more chapter for Rocinha, one more chapter for citizenship,” Governor Sergio Cabral told reporters on the day residents received their land titles. “It’s a city with 100,000 inhabitants. How many cities in Brazil have 100,000 inhabitants? What we are doing here is what the authorities had the obligation to do decades ago and didn’t do, so we’re going to keep going.”
Rio state is planning on spending over R$1.5 billion in public works to improve Rocinha in coming years, in connection to the Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (PAC – Growth Acceleration Program) 1 in Rocinha. The government plans to spend R$22.5 million to finish a crèche (daycare) and a three-station cable car gondola.