The west area of the city of Rio de Janeiro as a hub of urban expansion for housing of social interest: considerations from the minha casa minha vida program in Senador Camara

Research Article - (2022) Volume 1, Issue 1

Patricia Nicola*
*Correspondence: Patricia Nicola, Department of Geography and Regional Planning, State University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil, Email:
Department of Geography and Regional Planning, State University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

Received: 24-Jan-2022, Manuscript No. AJGRP-22-59237; Editor assigned: 26-Jan-2022, Pre QC No. AJGRP-22-59237; Reviewed: 09-Feb-2022, QC No. AJGRP-22-59237; Revised: 24-Mar-2022, Manuscript No. AJGRP-22-59237; Published: 31-Mar-2022


The present article approached the west zone of the city of Rio de Janeiro as an axis of urban expansion for social housing from the considerations of the Minha Casa Minha Vida Program- PMCMV in Senador Camará. The relevance of the theme arose from the concerns of professional performance by the Municipality of the City of Rio de Janeiro as a Social Worker in the post-occupancy stage (this stage in which the residents already reside in the housing units) of the PMCMV in the Destri condominiums (residents from via lottery) and Speranza (residents coming from the settlement), taking the period from 2011 to 2013 as a time frame. It is important to point out that my investigation and subsequent analysis were mediated by my experience and professional coexistence with the residents from different situations in both projects, as our work took place in the place of residence of these people; in other words, I was immersed in the daily life of the residents of these two condominiums.


Urbanization, Municipality, Settlement


From the carioca wilderness to the West Zone

The city of Rio de Janeiro underwent an intense urbanization process, especially in the west, which had rural characteristics even around 1970. However, the expansion of the road network, the demographic growth and the decentralisation of productive activity, allowed a progressive expansion of the city towards its peripheral areas [1]. The west zone, then called the “carioca sertão” by the researcher and writer Magalhães Corrêa, in the book of the same name about Jacarepaguá, from the beginning was a land of large estates, of lords and ladies of ingenuity and farms, whose limits, often imprecise, gave rise to conflicts. In 1673, the Freguesia of Campo Grande was created, a name given in the period of the Sesmarias system. It was endowed with different types of soil, which favored different uses and different crops, being under the control of the Jesuits. Currently, no longer called the Village of Campo Grande, but the West Zone,

the neighborhoods of Deodoro, Realengo, Padre Miguel, Bangu, Senador Camará, Campo Grande, Santíssimo, Inhoaíba and Cosmos are included [2]. Wilderness (Sertão) was the land that was far away and began at the suburban limits of cities and towns, in places where distant lakes, rivers, thick forests, valleys surrounded by mountains went by. It was the unknown. It is important to highlight that the Jesuits played an important role in the city of Rio de Janeiro and also in the West Zone; being the main responsible for the development of engineering such as the construction of roads, bridges, irrigation canals, containment of slopes and dams to prevent floods, in addition to the opening of canal and the construction of dams and bridges to regularize the Guandu River. They were expelled in 1759 by order of the Marquis of Pombal and all their properties were confiscated by the Portuguese Crown [3,4].

The West Zone region starts to be integrated, in fact, to the city of Rio de Janeiro, with the current limits, since the additional act of 1834 that created the neutral municipality or the Court's one, which in practice separated the capital from the province of Rio de Janeiro. Along with the proclamation of the republic, the region became the rural area of the federal district, finally in 1960, with the transfer of the capital to Brasília, it became the West Zone of the city of Rio de Janeiro, undergoing several transformations and having as main expansion hubs: the arrival of the railway network, factories, military service sectors, in addition to the removal of several slums.

From the 1960’s onwards, under the government of Carlos Frederico Werneck Lacerda (1960-1965), the program for the removal of slums and the resettlement of slum families began in a project that either reurbanized and recovered some slums, or determined the removal towards the areas closer to jobs and/or to regions served by transport lines or trains; causing protests and discontent on the part of the removed residents, in addition to the emergence of housing projects in the north and west of the city.

Through the Decree 263 of December 29, 1962, the State Housing Company of Rio de Janeiro-CEHAB was created, with the objective of developing housing policy and mainly the eradication of slums, starting its activities with the construction of large complexes: Vila Aliança, in Bangu (with 2,183 units), Vila Esperança, in Vigário Geral (464 units) and Vila Kenedy in Senador Camará. Together, these three received 37,000 residents (out of the 42,000 removed by Lacerda), coming from 32 slums that had been partially or completely eradicated.

The West Zone, in this way, becomes one of the vectors of expansion of the city for the settlement of the low-income population, receiving layers of the population from other neighborhoods coming from the various processes of removal of existing slums, starting to play an important role in the process of occupation and urbanization of this part of the city.

After the proclamation of the republic in Brazil, the current neighborhood of Senador Camará remained the same from 1870 to 1920. According to the demographic census of 1872, the population in the region of influence of the parish of Nossa Senhora de Campo Grande, which included Senador Camará, was 9,686 souls. Out of this total, 6,882 were free and 2,804 were slaves. Men were 4,797 and women 4,889. In the region, a large part of the economy was still focused on the cultivation of coffee, oranges, cassava, various fruits and other crops, in addition to animal husbandry.

The neighborhood of Senador Camará emerged at the end of the 19th century, from the fragmentation of Fazenda dos Coqueiros (currently the slum of Korea) and Fazenda do Viegas (where the MCMV condominium and the Jabour sub-district are located); being the Viegas, Antunes Suzano and Barcelos Domingues families its first founders.

Fazenda do Viegas, was the headquarters of the former Engenho da Lapa, founded by the colonizer Manuel de Souza Viegas, in addition to having been an important producer of sugarcane and brandy, being considered the second in importance in the Campo grande village; until the turn of the 19th century began to stand out in the production of coffee. Their crops extended to Lameirão (currently Santíssimo neighborhood) and Serra does Viegas, being crossed by the Santa Cruz Royal Road (currently Santa Cruz Avenue).

The last member of the Viegas family who owned the farm was Francisco Viegas de Azevedo Teles Barreto, and it was later sold to Antunes Suzano family, having the Baron of Campo Grande as owner. In the 1930 s, the old farm was sold in instalments to Construtora Imobiliária Bangu (Bangu Real Estate Company), which subdivided and urbanized land on the side of Senador Camará, along Santa Cruz avenue and Viegas' road, with a large part of its land being sold to the Jabour brothers, owners at the time of the largest coffee exporter in Brazil.

As for the Fazenda dos Coqueiros, in 1720 the then captain Manuel Antunes Suzano received a land grant in the Parish of Nossa Senhora do Desterro de Campo Grande, thus founding the then Fazenda dos Coqueiros and Lameirão. After the Abolition of Slavery and with the Proclamation of the Republic, the farm was dismembered into lots between the heirs of Manuel Antunes Suzano, his slaves and residents/squatters who worked for the family. Over the time, several disputes involving politicians, police, land grabbers and a lot of violence were part of the process of occupation of this land.

Nowadays with a population of approximately 2,614,728 residents, the west zone of the city corresponds to 41% of the total population in Rio de Janeiro, distributed over approximately 40 neighborhoods, which represent 70% of the territorial area of the municipality.

In terms of population, Senador Camará is made up of a population of 105,515 thousand people, of which 55,093 thousand are women and 50,422 thousand are men; with an average annual growth variation of 0.5%.

The unequal (re) production of urban space: an analysis from the daily life of PMCMV residents in the neighborhood of Senador Camará

“The territory also represents the land for the exercise of citizenship, since citizenship means active life in the territory, where social relations, neighborhood and solidarity relations, and power relations are concretized [5]. It is in the territory that social inequalities become evident among citizens, the living conditions among residents of the same city are differentiated, and the presence/absence of public services is felt and the quality of these services are the same.

According to KOGA (2011), the notion of territory goes beyond the geography of land, being also used by the social, political and economic sciences. Thus, the notion of territory is built on the relationship between the territory and the people who use it, through the mediation of everyday life that articulates different scales of social action and space, in the place.

Literature Review

The concept of territory, for Milton Santos, is not only organized by the State, but it is also not restricted to the normative and legal dimensions that delimit physical borders, power relations and hierarchy between portions of the territory, governments and State management and planning mechanisms. There is also the use and appropriation of the territory by other agents, encompassing social, economic and symbolic relationships, in addition to the tensions and contradictions of these relationships.

The discussion of the concept of territory used in Milton Santos will have as its starting point the reality lived by me as an agent of the state experiencing the housing policy through the PMCMV inserted in the territory of Senador Camará through the relationship and participation in everyday life of the residents; everyday life, which for Lefebvre is the place where social relations take place in their most varied aspects and senses.

Daily life is a key concept in Lefebvre, as it is in the sphere of everyday life that social relations take place in their most varied aspects and senses. Everyday life takes place in a concrete way through a set of relationships that contemplate different actions taking place in spaces (the house and the street), at certain times, where people with their corporeality, sensuality, sensitivity, imagination, thoughts and ideologies, relate to each other through their activities and practices.

The concept of territory will not be restricted to the State as a transforming agent of the territory, but also to the contradictory and unequal appropriation by the residents of the Destri and Speranza projects, of the PMCMV, in an already contradictory and unequal territory.

According to the law 10.257 of July 10, 2001 (FHC administration), known as the city's statute, some instruments are adopted such as the creation of Special Zone of Social Interest (Zona Especial de Interesse Social-ZEIS) regarding urban voids defined by the Directory Plan as a strategy to lower land prices and enable the production of SIH (Social Interest Housing). Through SZSI, the municipalities started reserving and donating lands to constructions for the poor population.

Through the additive amendment number 199 of 20072 by Councilman Jorge Fellipe, the following redaction was included in the article Title V in Chapter II of transitory dispositions:

“Art-The executive power will expropriate the abandoned land by Brasilit Telhas factory and shall give a social destination to that urban void, located in Senador Camará, with the implementation of a social, cultural, sports and leisure complex.”

On 12/18/2011, under the municipal secretary of housing Jorge Bittar's management, the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, whose mayor then was Eduardo Paes, opens in Senador Camará a building complex of Minha Casa Minha Vida Program, ironically nicknamed "Frog" by the residents of the "Toad", a housing project also located on Santa Cruz avenue across from the MCMVP complex.

The complex is formed by six buildings constructed at an old Brasilit tiles factory ground, from Saint Goban group, which produced cement industry by-products such as tiles and fiber cement water tanks; soon after declaring bankruptcy, it was deactivated.

An important aspect worth mentioning regarding this complex is about the contamination in part of the soil of the factory complex, especially due to the use of human harmful materials, like asbestos. The solution adopted by city hall involved a road connecting corte real street and albino paiva street, both cross santa cruz avenue, which allow access to schools, squares and trees reserves, making it unnecessary to go through the contaminated ground. The contaminated ground has not been built on.

The complex formed by six buildings has 100 thousand m2 of area and is composed by the condominiums: Vidal with 308 HU (Housing Units), Taroni with 243 HU, Destri with 421 HU (both selected via lottery); Speranza with 388 HU, Vaccari with 388 HU and Ayres with 453 HU (both selected via resettlement) and all agreed in the first phase of the program (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Buildings in Senador Camará neighborhood.

Once the public power builds up a condominiums complex composed of 2.201 housing units, where each HU in average is occupied by a family of 04 members (average according to social registrations filled out by the local social team at the buildings from 2011 to 2013), there is an alteration and/or construction of a new territory in Senador Camará.

The MCMVP had been built for a standard and controlled life, with residents inserted in abstract, homogeneous and ruled spaces as a way to reduce the existing difference. Starting from the moment various families from different territories of the whole city occupy with their bodies, identities, history and culture these spaces, they assume their contradictions and are transformed through their social

relationships, thus creating, according to Lefebvre, a new space: the inhabiting.

The inhabiting surpasses having a house to live in, because it means living the city in all its complexity, it means having access to traditional social policies dedicated to welfare, poverty and inequality reduction. All these policies such as: education, health, assistance, culture, leisure, among others; the location of these equipment, the condition of access, besides the importance and quality of these services offered make and transform the social space into a possible territory to be appropriated by those people (Figure 2).


Figure 2. Courtyard at Destri condominium.

As soon as the residents moved from both condominiums, for a long time they talked to us about the joy of living in a beautiful, clean and different from the reality when they used to live with relatives, or in solidarity, in wooden shacks and now they live in a condo.

According to KOGA (2011), the territory brings a present load marked by the history of a society in which cultural, institutional values are set as significant elements in people’s lives. It's in the territory that dreams and ideas come true. It was in the territory of Senador Camará that many residents' dreams from various neighborhoods came true. This new space at Destri condominium assumed lots of shapes with names, surnames, stories, dreams and

families coming from many areas of the city, under diverse situations, in order to write a new story and/or keep on an existing one. To be more precise, the residents came from exactly 83 neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro city and Baixada Fluminense.

The relationship with Speranza residents was one of closeness, calm and affection on their behalf. They used to call me by name, invite over for lunch in their homes and there was always fresh coffee. They saw me as a real person not as a professional that simply represented City Hall. I think this was one of the factors that eased the various activities we performed together, we thought together and better and they fulfilled without the need of my intervention. (Figure 3).


Figure 3. Courtyard at Speranza condominium.

Speranza condominium was conceived to welcome families whose living places were located in risk areas in many regions of the city and/or destined to infrastructure work in precisely 19 communities spread over the city of Rio de Janeiro.

On the urban territorial scenario, there is an ever more evident tension between the metropolis dynamic and the public policies answers; in this tension, there is no dialog with the day to day dimension of space and spaces as an effort to better comprehend how the relation between living territories (KOGA) and the operation of social policies take place.

Habitation is the house, but is also its surrounding. The availability of public services and infrastructure are inserted into the notion of right to the city and the right to a home. The house or apartment should be connected to the water supply network, basic sanitation and electricity; besides health services, education, sports, leisure and waste management. All of them should be available in the neighborhood where the Housing Units are located.

The program MCMV defines that infrastructure is a condition to get a contract with Caixa Econômica Federal-Federal Bank (UN-HABITAT, 2013). The project is prioritized if there is previous infrastructure in the region or if there are local governmental offers to provide infrastructure to the enterprise.

Article 5- A. For the implementation of constructions in the scope of PNHU (Urban Habitation National Program) those shall be observe III-basic infrastructure that includes access roads, public lighting and solutions for sanitary sewage and rainwater drainage and allows homes connections to water and energy supplies; and IV - the existence or commitment of the local public power to install or expand the equipments and services related to education, health, leisure and public transportation.

The West Zone is treated and perceived as a large field to be divided and receive groups of people from other parts of the city originated from the many slums removals processes. Among this urbanization process, which reveals a policy of designing the West Zone to the needs of other regions; The Government shows itself as a powerful agent at the creation of urban spaces and its infrastructure about services offered or not to this population.

The Habitation Policy should not be regarded as isolated from the other policies and even less apart from the user population marked by significant social inequalities and contrasting realities.

The social indexes play an important role on the build-up of reality reading instruments, however at the same time it has its own limits when it comes to representation of this reality, especially regarding its inner dynamic, the daily life full of variations that tend to be homogeneous under the form of indexes.

Furthermore, Koga (2013, p.124) states that there's a nonalignment between social actors and social policies: "the first evidence of this nonalignment is on the traditional way of planning and management, already established in our society, which is answers ex post: first one occupies the space and then the place becomes livable; first one is resident and later becomes citizen. This ex post process demands constant popular mobilization in order to make the right to live and access to social services a reality."

Down below there will be some social indexes of territory that reinforce the perspective of inequality from the life story and the trajectory analysis of individuals' narratives and urban trajectories through the specific eye over Senador Camará territory and the relations inhabitants established with it. The low quality of some public services offered to this population recoiled in a direct fashion on social work.

The path through the condominiums and the main avenue which cut the neighborhood, Santa Cruz avenue, would take in average 10 to 15 minutes of walking under a bright sun, because the trees around the condominiums were recently planted. In less than two months, around the condominiums, transportation services like moto taxi and vans were already working.

One of the main objectives of transportation policies is precisely to facilitate the access of people to diverse activities and destinations, making accessibility as a core to plan and evaluate such policy since it articulates economic, social and environmental questions

Lots of Destri and Speranza residents kept their workplaces in the spaces they already used to perform their labour activities regardless of the address change; moreover, the great majority used to take the train as the fastest and cheapest means of transportation for commuting.

According to data from Pereira Passos Institute (2010), Senador Camará presents an income per capita of R$ 251,09. Based on data from The Ministry of Labour and Job, Senador Camará presents 3.352 (2017) regular jobs, among those the majority is found at retail market, followed by service and catering sector, real estate administration, education sector, transportation and communication.

Taking into account the familiarity with residents that came from many poor neighborhoods, located in/or next to slums, i could see that many of them already lived in neighborhoods with a complete lack of infrastructure and basic services on the State's behalf and now they live in a new neighborhood, but also with precarities of infrastructure and services.

The metropolitan poverty is a growing phenomenon in Latin America. Besides, we should highlight that urban poverty has specific characteristics, since the population in these locations has minor access to income for self-consumption, apart from the metropolitan living cost being higher. For this purpose, the public policies, just like the social and urban policies, that take place on the territory have a pivotal role to perform in terms of social protection of life, especially to the poorest segments of the working class who mix the borders between relative super population and growing pauperism.

What we want to highlight is that the process of amplified reproduction of capital, studied and conceptualized by Marx, and it is responsible also for reproducing in an amplified form the working force, it happens through the exponential deepening of precarization, of insecurity and the pauperism of living conditions for the working class. That's to say, it's on the historical explaining milestone of social production of wealth and its private appropriation and even more often turned into finances, where one should understand the contents of forms of poverty

The same way, such process only exists through its spatial (territory) and time manifestation (history). That's why, the historical-territorial dimension of social inequality is of extreme importance to the analysis of social habitation policies, but also to the analysis of urban expressions of the social issues.

From the moment families started to live in the condominiums and raise several demands regarding fragmented public policies without inner sections, without enough technical personnel, but already existing, shed light on the limits of social life fragmentation as a result of the actions of State through MCMVP. In this context, the uses of territories in Senador Camará by residents of the analyzed Habitation Condos, taking into account their needs, world conceptions, desires and deep inequalities shown even on their bodies and subconscious, observing KOGA (2011) terms, should start to be understood by the public policies as central elements which define the own living sense of territory.

Therefore, families or individuals living in this location, through daily actions and manifested dissatisfactions from their place of residence, expose the importance of not being reduced only to either satiate or repressed "basic needs". Their saying and acting elucidate the importance of considering them as concrete and ordinary ways of territory usage based on its contradictions, conflicts and possible justice horizons.

It's crystal clear that MCMVP has diverged from usual urban guidelines for habitation policy stated by Law 11.124/2005. The norms that guide its implementation weren't approached by strategies to face the habitation deficit held in the Habitation policy, but actually by logic connected through market relations seen as a business opportunity for private companies.


Out of 286.890 HU total agreed in all the State of Rio de Janeiro for every group, a total of 180.168 HU was delivered (group 1,5 was not considered in this total, since they count only 4.797 delivered units) distributed among groups I, II and III. 88.462 HU were delivered to group I, 64.233 HU to group II and 27.473 HU to group III; happening in the year 2013 (Dilma's first mandate) the peak of contracts with 50.867 HU. And also, the peak of deliveries in 2016 (Dilma's administration) with 34.413 HU delivered in Rio de Janeiro state.

Such presented data converge to what literature already shows: that MCMVP was initially designed by the federal government as political decision to support the real state production for income groups that historically were placed out of market, being a population with income up to three minimum wages (Group I), responsible for the great part of the Habitation deficit in Brazil according to João Pinheiro foundation [6].

It's important to highlight that the City of Rio de Janeiro was the one which received most HU in all State. According to data from the ministry of regional development communication public relations, from 2009 to 2019, a total of 286.890 HU (57%) was demanded by Rio de Janeiro State. Out of this total, 109.100 HU (22%) were demanded for the city of Rio de Janeiro and only 71.000 UH (14%) have been delivered. 32.729 HU (7%) of these have been destined to group I.

The city's expansion towards the west zone "The construction firms' greed absolute leader" represents an exhausted and unsustainable model of development. According to the regional president of the Architects Institute of Brazil, from 1960 to 2000 the population in Rio de Janeiro grew 83%, from 3 million to 5,6 million; whereas the urbanized area grew 222%, from 180 to 580 square kilometres; generating some access problems to residents like the difficulty to promote universalization of services like basic sanitation and infrastructure [7].

The availability of grounds in this area, expansion axis for popular sectors, and the precariousness of services, with an impact on land prices, justify the great number of built units in this part of the city by MCMVP, besides the benefits conceded by the city Hall power encourage the habitation production of social interest in this place of the city.

This way, the MCMVP confirms a series of characteristics of the urbanization process historically marked by socio spatial segregation, reassuring the logic that determines the space for the poor and low-income population at distant places, with a fragmented urban tissue, with lack of infrastructure, equipments, public services and jobs.

The habitation policy performed historically a central role on the consolidation of the urban model of these metropolitan regions, just like on the reproduction of its socio spatial segregation pattern. The construction of big habitation condos in suburban areas where the land is cheaper, contributed substantially to boost the setting of a territorial division between rich and poor [8].

It’s important to call attention to the fact that this growth of the city towards the West Zone, goes along with the absence of adequate infrastructure and social interest public equipments and investments by the State on services and infrastructure, resulting in inequality of access to basic rights of public services, of access to the city, on how one appropriates and participates.

Such statement can be proved given the data from existing public equipments in Senador Camará (Figure 4).


Figure 4. Public equipments in the West Zone.

The referred data show us that the west zone of Rio de Janeiro is an area, despite being where 41% of the population lives, as great deficits on public services and infrastructure as shown in the figure above. If we take as an example the population of Senador Camará which is composed of 105.515 and out of these 55.093 are women, it shocks to realize there isn't a Precinct focused on supporting the women victim of violence.

If we think that a portion of the HU are destined to people carrying some kind of physical or mental disturb, besides all the first floor being destined to above 60 year old people, analyzing the equipments displayed above, it is also weird to think there aren't any services/equipments to attend this specific population.

Conforming to Koga (2013), on the territory there is a growing clear and evident tension between the metropolis dynamics and the public policies response, associated with the different dealings presented on these territories and yet without dialog with the daily life dimension and the resident people in that place, because daily

life has a rhythm and institutional life has another.

Koga (2013) brings to the spotlight the importance of (re) construction of a social topography of life territories capable of eliciting distances, disconnections, fragility, differences, physical and social inequalities. The physical topography (detailed description of a place) is made important; however, it cannot correspond to the hugeness of social topography of a territory.

The social topography goes far beyond the surface which presents a territory of life expressing in people's daily lives: they have radicalized bodies, gendered and bonded to poverty experiences and working-class precariousness on their biographic paths, on their contradictions and creation practices.

Through social topography, we can overview segregation in the MCMVP HU from buildings Destri and Speranza, destined to group me in Senador Camará, which prevails as the main expression of this inequality, in the living/used territories plan, where daily life demands and habits gain importance. Senador Camará is already an urban, social and economically segregated neighborhood in addition to old vulnerabilities like violence and poverty; therefore, it has become important to think that the city needs to be a city in all its territories with easy access to all public policies.


Consequently, the speed in seeding of habitations in areas with little urban infrastructure, associated with scarce availability of community equipment, compromises the living conditions of these households since these public services, already insufficient to attend the locals, don't resist the increase in demand. Thus, it's not just about precarious poor living conditions but unequal socio-spatial practices that produce precarious life territories with an exclude and risky urban expansion; nevertheless, they are heterogeneous in their dynamics and cannot be reduced to precariousness or absence and/or vulnerability, but these are territories of life which dream about better and fairer conditions.

I wonder to myself that maybe the Senador Camará territory and many others that form the west zone of the city, and are especially in program área 5, don't have investments by the public power regarding infrastructure and public services in order to keep the real estate and land valuation logic from happening in these spaces. Remaining the occupation and use vector of land and habitation, in this part of the city, through urban expansion of the social interest habitation to the poorest groups of the population through social interest habitation programs, like Minha Casa Minha Vida group I, we will continue to watch the creation of constructions, not the city's, but the urbanness, multiple different centralities of and in the city. The market logics will remain, only with different names: urban revitalization, renovation, rehabilitation of space, areas evaluation, among others as a way to sell the city and lure investments of capitals.


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