Monday, May 23, 2005

'The Real City of God'

My good friends at the 2 Brothers Foundation have posted a bunch of great stuff on Rocinha, including a video file of 'The Real City of God,' a speech I gave last month at Oklahoma University. They've also got links to some great photos of Rocinha by Gabriel Ponce de Leon, which were also exhibited at OU. You can find them here.

Brazzil Magazine reviews Shadow Cities

Brazzil Magazine, a web-based English-language publication about all things Brazilian, offers Ernest Barteldes' take on my book Shadow Cities. I'm glad that Ernest included my wish: "it would be terrific if my book acts as a mirror ... and a catalyst, encouraging [squatters] to be proud and vocal in the cities they call home."

Thursday, May 12, 2005

the CBC, me, and squatters

I was featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio show 'the current' this morning. Check it out at: Whole Show Blow-by-Blow. I'm in the 3rd block (labeled part 3 on the page).

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Canadian manufacturer wants to build for squatters

Canada's Financial Post newspaper reported this week on Minaean International Corp., a Vancouver-based company that "designs and manufactures low-cost steel-frame and steel-wall systems and building kits" and wants to participate in Mumbai's $50 million slum rehabilitation program. It isn't clear from the article whether the company's products are actually affordable, but it's good that builders are beginning to think about the merits and profits involved in creating housing for the poor. I'd post a link to the article, but, sadly, I couldn't find it on the web.

150 square feet: a great possibility for squatters

Never look down your nose at an offer of land. The Times of India reports that the 30,000 squatters whose homes were torn downin December 2004 and January 2005 will be offered 150 square feet of land each on which they will be responsible to build new homes. They will also have to pay for infrastructure improvements.

"They will be allotted a 150 sq ft pitch on payment of cost of infrastructure as may be decided by the government. Furthermore, the allottee will construct his own house at his own cost," the newspaper reports, quoting from an affidavit filed by Ashok Jagtap, deputy secretary of the state housing department.

Of course, the details of this plan are crucial. If the government charges too much for infrastructure, or if it applies unfair construction standards and rules, no squatters will be able to afford to take advantage of the offer of land.

And here's something totally insane: according to the article, the same housing official also suggested that the Congress Party's vow to legalize squatters who had been in their homes before the year 2000, a campaign promise that was widely credited with helping to sweep the party to its recent electoral victory in Maharastra, was simply a misprint in its campaign literature.

Low interest loans for resourceful squatters

Finally, the banking world is waking up to opportunities in squatter communities. Brazil has started a new R$5 million program (approx. $2 million, U.S.) that will offer small business loans in Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro. Independent entrepreneurs can get microcredit loans of as little as R$50 (or $20) with no formal application required. Larger businesses can receive up to R$5,000 ($2,000 U.S.) The loans will run for one or two years, at 4 percent interest. Channeled through a subsidiary of the federally controlled Banco do Brasil, the money will reach the community through five non profit agencies. The Gazeta Mercantil reports, in Portuguese.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Big in Bombay

Time Out Mumbai takes on Shadow Cities!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


This article, from the premiere issue of the magazine of the Prague Institute for Global Urban Development, suggests that squatters themselves can develop their own neighborhoods. The author ought to know: Muhammad Yunus is the founder and director of the Grameen Bank in Dhaka, Bangladesh, an entity that specializes in micro-lending to poor entrepreneurs (and pretty much every squatter is an impoverished entrepreneur.) Primitive proto-capitalism may not be fashionable, but it is one way to move squatter communities forward.