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.

New housing development in Rocinha favela
New housing development in Rocinha favela, photo by Katya Gubarev.

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.

New PAC funded housing will mostly be studio and one bedroom apartments
New PAC funded housing will mostly be studio and one bedroom apartments, photo by Katya Gubarev.

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.”

New PAC funded housing
New PAC funded housing along main street in Rocinha, photo by Katya Gubarev.

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.


  1. That last sentence is questionable. A UPP this year is pretty much inevitable – and the consequence of that (aside from police brutality and aggression) will be inflated real estate prices…

    Going past there on the bus today, i noticed the brand new ‘Rocinha’ sign in front has ‘welcome’ written in English, which pretty much confirms my prediction that the place will be exploited for tourism in the near future…

    Given that Rocinha is on the route from Zona Sul (where tourists will stay) and where tourists will go (the Olympics venues in Barra), the government is going all out – painting the houses (visible from the front) all kinds of bright colors… constructing playgrounds for the kids… etc…

    Trafficantes running the favela isn’t ideal, especially for the kids… but it’s much better than the thugged out PM / UPP…

  2. Agreed. Just back from Rio and visit to friend’s friend in Rocinha. Our hotel mgr referred to Rocinha as a “five star favela” given its proximity to Ipanema and Copacabana. The land grab can’t be far behind.

  3. @Diego- UPP is a million times better for the community than trafficantes, are you kidding???? At least the kids won’t see crack sales every five seconds and young wanna be gangsters with machine guns in their faces polluting their vision of what the future should be like.

  4. Gerald – Kind of an exaggeration there… Firstly, the trafficantes in Rocinha don’t sell crack. Secondly, the trafficantes in Rocinha are offering an alternative to a minimum salary of R$580 per month. Not that i’m saying it’s a good alternative, just that you need to see the bigger picture…

    On two recent trips to Rocinha, i asked my moto-taxistas what they thought of a UPP there. One was against… and one was for. So there you go… it’s a subjective issue…

  5. Sven, exactly. Jornal do Brasil on their site yesterday… mentioned how 30 of the military members ‘protecting’ Complexo Alemao have been dismissed, for stealing from the residents’ homes. And 20 Policia Militar… were also suspended or fired for doing the same thing (in Complexo Alemao also)…

    So yeah… hooray for UPPs… substituting one kind of criminal for another…

    Globo didn’t report this… but everyone knows how pro-establishment and pro-government Globo is…

  6. I dont like the drug trade here but to have police here is scarier.. nobody likes or trusts the police. It is complicated issue. And if you are not in brasil you can not compare or even imagine what it is like living here with all the police corruption and abuses especially if you are a favela resident..

  7. Very interesting article.. ¡d like t ry and get in touch with Jean de Oliviera Seixas, who works in the Passárgada real estate agency. Please can you send his contact details to me?

    Thank you,

  8. I live in sao conrado and everytime i go to market i pass front of rocinha and every single time i stopped by police and asked if i had buy any drugs. I need to proff that i am not a turist and show all the documents i have to go on my way to buy that bread. Imagine i live in there…………… Every american they see there is a junkie they think i guess.

  9. I am doing work for a school in rochina. I am an american and when i came out of rochina he other day and the police stopped me pulled down my pants and after they saw that i did not have any drugs they wanted a bribe. The police are so corrupt outside rocinha as they think all gringos coming out of rocinha are using drugs and try to set them up for bribes.

    At first, i thought it would better for the police to be there, but then someone told who lived in rocinha all there life that 10 years ago the police were in rocinha and it became very bad and dangerous because once you let corrupt police in the whole system breaks down and now people of the favela have to fend for themselves. Just an interesting point. Maybe it will be different now. But, again the police were there before and it did not go well. So, let’s see now.

  10. If you leave Rocinha via Estrada de Gavea, it’s more dangerous – in terms of being stopped and harassed by the police. It’s better to leave via the main entrance (the street with the Pacheco and main businesses)…


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