Wearing red hats and waving flags reading “housing dignity now” and “people without fear,” 20,000 homeless Brazilians marched 20 kilometers (14 miles) through the streets of Sao Paulo to protest Brazil’s housing crisis Tuesday.

Protesters are demanding the government provide more low-income housing in a country where, according to Brazil's Ministry of Cities, houses built to accommodate families making under $550 per month dropped by 500,000 units between 2013 and 2016 — from 537,000 to 37,000. 

The country has seen an increase in real estate developments aimed at higher earners, City Lab has reported, and many plots of land owned by international financial speculators that could be developed into low-income housing sit unused. 

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Beginning on the outskirts of the city and ending at São Paulo’s state government headquarters, the march was organized by Brazil's Homeless Workers Movement (MTST), according to the newspaper Brasil De Fato

MTST leader Guilherme Boulos met with housing and planning officials for three hours, Brasil De Fato reported. 

"The majority of workers on the urban peripheries don't own their house; they rent and are totally vulnerable — if family members lose their jobs and income falls drastically, they lose their home," Boulos told Al Jazeera. "This is the drama being lived by millions of families across Brazil today and is causing occupations to increase across the country."

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In the absence of low-income housing in Brazil’s major cities, many have taken to squatting in informal locations in cities like Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro. 

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Outside of Sao Paulo, a teeming camp of 7,500 homeless Brazilians, called the “Fearless People of Sao Bernardo Occupation,” emerged in September of this year at an abandoned lot owned by the MZM construction company, according to Al Jazeera. Telesur reported in September that MZM has filed an eviction notice against the squatters. 

One resident of the informal settlement, 34-year-old construction worker Adelino de Lima Silva, told Al Jazeera that his pay for odd construction jobs has decreased by 30-45% and that his family has “barely enough to eat.” 

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Lima Silva’s situation is not unique. 

Across the country, Brasil De Fato reported, one in four Brazilians are either homeless or live in “inadequate housing.” And an estimated 13 million Brazilians — or about 12.4% of people in the country — are unemployed.  

According to the World Policy Blog, Brazil has a “housing deficit” of 5.4 million homes.

This housing deficit is more pronounced in certain areas, like Rio De Janeiro. 

It’s estimated that 20% of Rio residents live in informal shantytowns called favelas, and often lack access to basic public services like running water, healthcare, and public education. 

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In 2009, the Brazilian government rolled out a social program called “Minha Casa, Minha Vida,” (My House, My Life) aimed at placing low-income Brazilians in housing units across the country, but in 2016, the government announced cuts to the program worth tens of millions of dollars.  

Brasil De Fato reported that after the march the government began to register individuals living in the Sao Bernardo settlement and agreed to a follow-up meeting with MSMT on Nov. 10. 

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, including goal number 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities — which calls for “access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services.” 


Demand Equity

20,000 Homeless Brazilians Marched to Demand Affordable Housing

By Phineas Rueckert