Thursday, July 21, 2011

struggles of Jo-berg's squatters

The Los Angeles Times offers a take on the perils faced by squatters in what the newspaper refers to as Johannesburg's "Mad Max downtown." Sadly, though, the paper seems to look at developers who buy derelict squatter-occupied properties as potential white knights, capable of revitalizing the central city. Rather, they are seeking to profit from the opportunity to purchase big buildings at fire-sale prices. Though no family should have to live in a 5 X 10 foot room with no electricity and no water, this good family will simply get pushed to worse and more precarious accomodations if they are evicted.

One owner, who the newspaper identifies as Mark, told the reporter that "he'll do everything by the book, including getting a court eviction order, but he's not planning any meetings with tenants. "We don't encourage that," he says brusquely. "They are welcome to apply to move back in when it's renovated," he adds, although many will probably not be able to pay a deposit and higher rents. He believes there's a pile of money to be made from Johannesburg's low-cost housing shortage, if you're brave enough."Still, he's not brave enough to actually visit the building he bought. Instead, he had a black friend go there to take pictures.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

favela cable cars

Rio de Janeiro has opened a cable car line that makes 5 stops up the hill into the Complexo do Alemao collection of favelas in the city's Zona Norte. Dow Jones Newswires reports that the $134 million system can transport 3,000 people every hour (though this may not be the exact truth: each of the system's 152 cable cars would need to make two trips per hour at the full capacity of ten people to move 3,000 folks up and down the hill.) "We're already looking at an extension of the Alemao cable car, as well as putting cable cars into Rocinha and Mangueira," the head of the state-run company that built the system told the news service.

While it's great that the government is willing to make an investment in mass transit, the article doesn't report what residents must pay to use the cable car system, nor what its hours are, nor how many people were forced to move to make way for its installation.