By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday, May 13th, a derelict former IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) building, located in Mangueira, in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone) was personally detonated by the Mayor of Rio, Marcelo Crivella, to clear way for a proposed “Minha Casa Minha Vida” housing complex that will be built in its place.
What used to be a centre for research by the IBGE had long lain abandoned, although squatters had taken up quarters, and was evaluated by the Undersecretary for Housing to be both at risk of fire and collapse due to its dilapidated state.
A spokesperson for the city hall stated that they had registered the 210 families that lived in the building and, while evicted, the families will receive social rent of around R$400 per month.
The apartments will be for families with incomes of up to R$1,800 monthly. Caixa Econômica Federal is responsible for choosing the companies that will do the work, and the construction is estimated to take about a year and a half.
The Minha Casa Minha Vida (My House My Life) program is a the massive public housing campaign launched by the Brazilian Federal Government in March of 2009. Since then the program has had investments totaling R$300 billion, more than 4.2 million housing units authorized for construction and 2.62 million units delivered to low-income families.
The mayor gave a speech lauding this action. “It should be emphasized that today, May 13th, is not only Mother’s Day. It is also the day of the liberation of the slaves, and today a senzala (a slave camp) fell, perhaps one of the last to fall in Rio de Janeiro.”
This comes at a time when residents living in derelict buildings are increasingly fearful for their safety, following a deadly fire in a squatted apartment complex in São Paulo two weeks ago.