WRI worked with the Brazilian government and others to shape new standards for social housing which discourage developments that are isolated from urban centers. A new law now drives implementation of compact, connected and coordinated (3C) development, potentially benefitting 1.8 million people through improved access to public transport and higher rates of walking and cycling.

The Challenge

The Brazilian social housing program Minha Casa, Minha Vida (MCMV or My House, My Life) aimed to tackle Brazil’s urban housing deficit by building more than 3 million houses for low-income families in the last six years. But MCMV’s building boom exacerbated urban sprawl. Many projects were located far from urban centers, where land prices were lower, hindering access to jobs, education, healthcare, public transportation and safe areas for walking and cycling.

WRI's Role

In 2013, Caixa, Brazil’s federal funding agency, invited WRI Brasil to help improve the design of a MCMV project of 1,300 homes in the southern city of Rio Grande, making the development more compact, connected and coordinated by integrating it with public transportation, improving public spaces, making pedestrians and cyclists a priority and promoting mixed-use areas that include businesses and housing. Using this pilot, WRI worked with the ministries of Cities, Health, Education, Social Development and Culture, as well as the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and the Federal University of ABC in the state of São Paulo to create new federal social housing standards for the next phase of MCMV. This was the first time that these ministries worked together to improve the MCMV program. WRI conducted a countrywide study that found that providing essential services is costlier when creating distant communities that contribute to sprawl than when creating developments that are compact, connected and coordinated (3C).

The Outcome

In March 2017, the Brazilian government enacted a new law with standards which will drive implementation of the 3C model in MCMV’s next stage. The law discourages gated communities, requires connection to public transport and promotes walking and cycling. In the next two years, the new law and standards aim to guide the construction of 600,000 houses, potentially benefiting more than 1.8 million low-income people. Brazilian cities will benefit from reduced greenhouse gas emissions from transport and lower costs for urban services and infrastructure. WRI Brasil will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Cities and municipal governments to make social housing more sustainable and intends to evaluate the results of the law. Lessons from this experience could help other countries apply similar standards.