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cities & citizens series - bridging the urban divide

the mayor in power and the local government have a significant impact on policy choices and direction in São Paulo. In recent years, the political space has been vigorously contested, with clear implications for policy in the city and the metropolitan region. According to one analysis, ‘Instability and social conflict manifested themselves politically in São Paulo through a strong polarization between left and right’ and constant changes in the priorities of different mayors.189 In relation to urban planning and housing, the municipality is responsible for establishing standards for zoning, plots, land use, land occupation, road networks, environmental protection, cultural heritage and environmental protection. The City Statue has become a critical legal instrument for achieving progress through well-informed policies in each

Housing programmes failed to prevent the rapid settlement of favelas in the larger cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. of these areas of responsibility. It is proving to be a powerful tool for popular movements and forums to advance their causes and interests in the urban context, and not least in São Paulo, where civil society has been active in promoting the needs of those living in favelas and cortiços. Although the Estatuto da Cidade (City Statute) was conceived of soon after the adoption of the progressive 1988 Brazilian Constitution, it was only passed in 2001 as a federal law. The urban reform movement fought hard to have the Statute approved, but in essence, the law simply elaborates and regulates the constitution’s Article 182 on urban policy. In particular, it oversees aspects of the constitution pertaining to the social function of property and the use of urban property for the common good. According to one commentary, this regulatory function, along with usucapião urbano (akin to adverse possession) has transformed urban policy. Usucapião urbano creates the ability to establish incontestable title of ownership for residents who have occupied small lots of

informal or illegal urban land continuously for five years, given no legitimate opposition to the change in title. The Statute also defines instruments for urbanization and land ownership regularisation, raising real estate values and urban land speculation and increasing the democratic space by increasing popular participation and cooperation with civil society in planning and budgeting processes.190 Additionally, it defines instruments that ensure the right to sustainable cities, asserting citizens’ rights to land, sanitation, services, infrastructure, work and leisure and future generations. Interestingly, and somewhat enigmatically, it also asserts that the benefits and burdens resulting from the urbanization process should be shared fairly. Amongst other innovative and important stipulations, the City Statute requires cities to develop municipal master plans and gives them the option to impose Zones of Special Social Interest (ZEIS)191 and other instruments for city zoning and land regularization. Nationwide, almost 2,000 municipalities now have the legal obligation to produce master plans for the promotion of urban policy; the City Statute initially 2006 as the deadline for all master plans to be submitted. Master plans guide the planning process and associated municipal budgets, and serve as the instruments against which achievements are measured. São Paulo is currently working with a strategic master plan, Plano Diretor Estratégico do Município de São Paulo, Municipal Law 13.430, enacted in September 2002. The Brazilian government has used several approaches to address the problems of illegal settlements since they first began in the 1930s. In the beginning, there was scant acknowledgement and de facto official denial of the existence of informal settlements. Overall, the number of low-cost housing units was then, as it is now, insufficient to meet the country’s needs. Housing programmes failed to prevent the rapid settlement of favelas in the larger cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.192 In the year 2000, according to UN-HABITAT data, the housing deficit in the whole of Brazil affected 11.7 per cent of the

Profile for UN-Habitat

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Profile for unhabitat
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