Friday, August 25, 2006

the power of incrementalism

The Financial Times gets it right: favelas have become better incrementally. As the article explains, "Rather than wipe slums from the map, the authorities looked to civilise them and integrate them into the urban fabric. Roads have been asphalted, water pipes and electricity lines extended into squatted settlements. Further measures ranging from the provision of street names and house numbers to the granting of legal titles to properties have been a feature of this approach, as have moves to introduce schools, clinics and regular policing."

In his dispatch from Diadema, a town of some 400,000 people on the southern edge of São Paulo, reporter Richard Lapper finds a community of "brightly painted cheap restaurants, beauty parlours and stalls selling fruit juice. Children play football and swim in a well-equipped sports facility financed by local employers. From a central bus station, modern coaches ferry residents to São Paulo's underground railway network, reaching the centre of the city in a little over an hour."

In other words, the squatter community is actually a real neighborhood. It's terrific. And it's terrific to see this transformation -- the product more of what people have done themselves than what government has done for them -- honored in a mainstream paper.

[Thanks to Tom Neilssen for the FT link.]


Ina O' Murchu said...


I was in Belfast at the weekend.
We drove into a real rough neighbourhood where the high wall partitions the Catholics from the Prosetants.I was surprised to see the amount of old slummy style homes being torn down and nice modren homes being put up instead.Looks like the neighbourhoods are undergoing massive changes there maybe the Peace process has a lot to do with it.

rn said...

Ina: Good point. Yes, the specter of peace certainly gives people the confidence to invest in their homes and neighborhoods.

Still I wonder what is fueling this. Are older residents selling out? Are developers snapping up houses because they smell a profit? Are parents simply passing down homes to their kids who want to invest to live in slightly higher style? Is the low tax rate in Ireland helping to drive the improvements? Are banks offering mortgages at suddenly favorable rates?

If anyone knows, let us know.