By Cecilie Hestbæk, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The expansion of the favelas of Rio is a heavily discussed topic. The rapidly growing slum areas provide homes for a rising number of people at an alarming rate, at the expense of the surrounding rainforest. However, the actual process of building a house in a favela often takes years of patience and hard work.
When Patricia Pereira, lifetime resident of the favela Babilônia in Zona Sul, got married and had a daughter, she inherited a piece of land in the morro (hill side) from her grandparents, and the construction of a new home for her young family began.
As soon as the building started to take shape, Pereira and her husband moved from her parents’ house and into the space with a temporary roof and walls. Now, seven years later, they recently finished the construction, and she is now proud to say that she will never leave her house – and when the time comes, she will be able to pass it on to her daughter.
The construction process has been long and expensive, Pereira explains. “We built everything ourselves while working full time, and we were only able to purchase few building materials at a time, because of course we still had to buy food, clothes and so on.”
The UPP pacified Babilônia favela seems to be filled with construction sites, but only two small shops provide materials such as bricks, concrete, and other supplies. To supplement this, it is often necessary to travel to stores outside the favela, which means hard-earned money spent on transportation of the heavy materials up the steep roads of the morro.
The recent implementation of the UPP in Babilônia and neighboring Chapéu Mangueira has made many things easier for the inhabitants. Now all homes are provided with water and electricity, and with the increased feeling of safety, house prices have increased. The price of a house in the favela has ranged from around R$16,000 to R$30,000, but recently a house was sold for as much as R$60,000.
The greater safety in the area also means more possibilities of locals to rent out rooms or floors of their house. In Vidigal and Rocinha (Rio’s largest favelas), long term rentals of an apartment can be as low as R$250 per month. Here and in other communities like Babylônia, residents are seeing prices rise as more outsiders enter.
The community recently started official favela tours, which several inhabitants hope to use as a foundation for the offering day-to-day rentals in time for the 2014 World Cup, so they can earn more money on the empty spaces in their houses.
For those not fortunate enough to have built a home there yet, however, the police presence in the area has put an end to the favela expansion. This means that if their family does not own land yet, many of the next generation will have to leave Babilônia in order to build a home for themselves as their parents did.