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The reality is that few easy solutions exist for the cortiços in Luz. New social housing in the city centre, refurbishment of old cortiços or legal requisition of buildings is a time-consuming and expensive process that may be interrupted by the changing regimes that govern the municipality and pre-empted by new capital and real estate interests. The municipality itself has a programme for cortiços that includes forcing tenement owners to refurbish their buildings, under risk of heavy fines. The CDHU action programme in cortiços – Projeto de Atuacao em Cortiços (Cortiços Intervention Project) — has had a slow start, benefitting a limited number of families in a difficult political and legal environment. Those who cannot be helped may move to the favelas or rent newer cortiços in the periphery, but in the short to medium term, cortiços in São Paulo’s centre will remain a vivid illustration of social inequality and division, despite the ZEIS protective instruments embedded in the 2002 city master plan. Paulo Sandroni, urban economist and development consultant of the Getulio Vargas Foundation Business School in São Paulo, told UN-HABITAT, ‘ZEIS is a way to protect the poor people from expulsion during gentrification’, but he warned of the risk of politics abandoning laws like ZEIS in the city centre. ‘Currently the mayor [of São Paulo municipality] is fighting in the council to get rid of ZEIS zones’ between the two major rivers, the Tiet and the Pinherios, that hug the city’s main central areas, occupied predominantly by the elite and the middle class. Source: Frúgoli Jr., H. & Sklair, J. (2008). The Luz district in São Paulo: Anthropological questions on the phenomenon of gentrification. Unpublished paper prepared for the Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies.

Image: Andersson Barbosa

Housing activists sometimes provoke confrontations with authorities as part of their strategy to publicise housing deficits, and the problem of empty buildings, in the centre.

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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...

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