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cities & citizens series - bridging the urban divide

São Paulo’s elite and middle class began a process of relocation to newly constructed exclusive neighbourhoods while maintaining some of the older, now-depopulating, elegant neighbourhoods such as Higienopolis, Jardins and Vila Mariana. There was an absence of investment in new buildings, and refurbishment and modernizing of old ones. Some middle-class families shifted from renting to purchasing their own homes, necessitating a move outside the centre to places where land prices were comparatively lower. However, gentrification of some parts of the centre also exacerbated the cost of housing and drove poorer families

...the explosion of favelas and densification of cortiços brought poor citizens into closer proximity with wealthy city dwellers... and many middle-class households out of the central areas. Many of the older buildings in downtown São Paulo also became uninhabitable and have been left vacant. (See Special Feature 5 for more on empty buildings in São Paulo.) In addition to these changes, the intermediary ring experienced an intense expansion of commerce and business and played a part in the relocation of the elite and middle classes. Real estate speculation flourished as the growing middle class demanded safe and exclusive residences far from the urban decay of the centre and its soaring rise in crime. The annual growth rates in different parts of São Paulo between 1991 and 2000 clearly illustrate the city’s segregation: the more exclusive downtown areas with the highest concentrations of businesses and apartments experienced negative growth and depopulation, while the intermediate areas grew at rate of 0.01 to 2 per cent and the periphery grew at a striking 2 to 13.4 per cent, meaning some favelas and informal settlements doubled their population in seven or eight years.50

Breaking the centre-periphery model Transport networks, both private and public, played an important role in facilitating the growth of the often illegal and informal

periphery, sustaining the ‘centre versus periphery’ model. But events changed the simplicity of this model that defined São Paulo’s urban profile prior to the 1980s. Instead of addressing the urban decay of dilapidated cortiços and the remarkable proliferation of abandoned buildings, as authorities had done in Rio earlier in the century, in São Paulo the centre was partially abandoned, by policy makers, real estate developers and many middle-class families. Only with the recent combination of real estate price recovery in the central area and a pro-poor housing policy have neglected cortiços and favelas started to be targeted by government interventions and market actions. Coinciding with new policies of favela upgrading, and land and housing tenure regularization of informal and illegal periphery areas, two new phenomena emerged: the development of condominiums in the periphery and the creation of high-end businesses and residential districts in different parts of metropolitan São Paulo, well away from the traditional central urban zone. While the explosion of favelas and densification of cortiços brought poor citizens into closer proximity with wealthy city dwellers, so did the spread of condominiums outside of the centre. In many places, the shifting real estate development pitched the developers and their interest groups against favelados, who in many cases were already occupying parts of the newly up-and-coming areas. (See Special Feature 11 for a discussion of forced evictions in Jardim Edite.) The characterization of social and spatial segregation became more complex with the breaking of the centre-periphery model. It also became more nuanced as physical separation between socioeconomic groups declined in some areas, only to be replaced by walls, security equipment, guards and general fortification. The neighbourhood of Morumbi, with its elite apartments and individual terrace pools overlooking the massive adjacent favela, Paraisópolis, is frequently used to illustrate the proximity of opposites and, to some, epitomizes the lifestyle inequalities in São Paulo today. However, the reality is that this oft-cited image of São Paulo’s contrasts is just one aspect

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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