Brazil’s business community believes rapid growth is what is needed to improve the country’s economy. One of the biggest challenges of Brazil is providing decent housing for the poor, especially when control of property and land is concentrated in the hands of a tiny, rich elite. According to World Bank figures for 2004, between 50 and 60 percent of Brazilians can’t afford a proper home and without a proper response from the government it’s going to get much worse.
Housing Problems for the Poor in Sao Paolo, Brazil Host: But Brazil’s business community believes rapid growth is what is needed to improve the country’s economy. Paulo Skaf: A country such as Brazil with 180 million people needs to grow. It needs to grow at 6% or 7% every year. There’s nothing better for resolving the issue of social inclusion, of inequality than creating job opportunities, business opportunities, and income opportunities and all this comes from growth. Host: Providing decent housing for the poor is one of the biggest challenges Lula faces especially when control of property and land is concentrated in the hands of a tiny, rich elite. According to World Bank figures for 2004, between 50 and 60 percent of Brazilians can’t afford a decent home and without a proper response from the government, it’s going to get much worse. A lack of access to suitable land means millions have moved to the cities. Pedro da Silva is one of them. He was on a government farming scheme in the Amazon but it turned out to be a disaster. Pedro: We couldn’t keep our crops because the animals would come and eat and destroy everything. Host: Along with millions like him, Pedro ended up in the city. He also lives in the Favella Coliseu. He tries to make a living carving ornamental houses for the rich. Pedro: I came from a poor family. I didn’t go to school. I can’t provide an education for my children. It’s a chain; my father was poor, I am poor, and my children will be poor. Marcio Pochman: Social exclusion has a totality about it. If you are poor, you are excluded because you don't have education. You don’t have health, or work, so all in all, you have nothing. Host: Despite the gulf between rich and poor, extreme poverty is being reduced. In line with its Millennium Development Goal pledges, Brazil has halved the number of people living in extreme poverty, that’s on less than a dollar a day. In 1990, it was 8.8%. Now, it’s 4.4%. Despite this progress, housing remains a problem. In Sao Paulo recently, 72 homeless families illegally occupying a school were evicted. Simone: Lots of these people will have to sleep under the bridge or even on the streets because they have nowhere to go. There are children, old people, and pregnant women. Where am I going to sleep? You’ll know I have no idea. Host: As the last removal truck’s loaded, the authorities seal-off the building. Hours later, the trucks are unloading the evicted families’ belongings on the outskirts of town. It’s supposed to be a temporary encampment, but many of the residents claim they’ve been here for years. Marcio Pochman: To improve on housing policy, Lula will need not just the finances. He’d also need to be able to negotiate at Federal State and municipal levels. In order to enforce this, Lula will need a majority in Congress. Host: According to the National Movement for Housing, over six and a half million people live in places like this. They estimate that in cities across Brazil, two and a half million people have taken matters into their own hands by organizing occupations. One day, Pedro hopes to join them, to get somewhere more permanent. For now, he must stay in the Favella.