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new house, new life in villa nova jaguaré* Maria de Fátima Silva Souza, resident of social housing project destroyed. Buying new furniture wasn’t worth it’. That’s why in the past Souza limited herself to just a bed, a stove and a fridge. Clothes were kept inside cardboard boxes. Built near the steep base of the favela, the new buildings offer stability to the slopes of the socalled Morro do Sabão (literally ‘Soap Hill’). As the name indicates, mudslides used to be very frequent there, and the area was considered a priority in the municipal project. While her new home was being built, Souza moved to the nearby Vila Dalva district, where the municipality paid her rent. The other option offered, which she refused, was to take a lump sum of R$8,000 (about US $4,600) and find her own housing, an amount that Paulistanos know, truly ‘buys nothing’. It has been nearly one year since Maria de Fátima Silva Souza, age 52, was given the keys to her own apartment in Vila Nova Jaguaré, a 166,000 squaremetre favela in front of Marginal Pinheiros, in the western zone of São Paulo. The building where she now lives was recently built as part of the city government’s slum upgrading project. Surviving on a pension since an unsuccessful surgery took away the use of her left hand, the former cleaner lives in a two-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a four-story building with her mother Olívia, 80, and her granddaughter Ana Caroline, 4, who Souza has raised since birth. Except for the health problem that prevents her from working, Souza is happy with life at the new address. In fact, it is the first time since her arrival in São Paulo that she actually has an address. After moving to the city from her hometown of Petrolina in northeast Brazil, she bought a one-room wooden shack in the same Vila Nova Jaguaré slum and lived there for 20 years. Her mailing address was the house of a friend, because her shack had no street name, only a number: 83. But that wasn’t the main problem. Over the years, her family had to deal with the water that came down the slope every time it rained, passing through the house and ruining her belongings. Her mother once was bitten by a rat. ‘Here is much better, a decent home with an address’, Souza says. She bought all new furniture after moving to the new apartment. ‘When it rained, everything used to get wet. In one year, the wardrobe was totally

Souza’s family earns about R$1,000 per month (about US $579), but their expenses have increased since the slum was upgraded. Like her 20 neighbours in the building, Souza pays R$70 (about.US $40) per month in mortgage payment, R$10 (about US $5.70) for building maintenance, plus the electricity bill — costs that she hadn’t faced before. ‘It is worth it,’, she says. ‘I don’t need to worry about the rain and the mud anymore. It is very good for me’. Souza is functionally illiterate, having left school in the second grade. Unable to work, she usually spends her days in front of the television. Her house is decorated with care, with dime-store artwork lining the walls, curtains in the windows and a proper welcome mat outside the door. She likes the neighbourhood because life’s necessities are nearby: a supermarket, a bakery and a preschool for her granddaughter. On the weekends, she prefers to stay at home, go to church, or visit the nearby Villa Lobos park. What does Souza expect for the future? ‘To be better’, she says. ‘In the first place, I hope to improve my health. And I wish Caroline to be someone in life, meaning studying for not having to work in cleaning, as I did’

*

All ten interviews featured as Vox Paulistanos were commissioned by UN-HABITAT and written by Luciana Benatti, a São Paulo-based journalist. Image: Marcelo Min Fotogarrafa Agency

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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...

Profile for unhabitat
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