On Wednesday, June 10, 2015, the City Hall of Rio de Janeiro organized a public hearing about the creation of the Plano de Habitação de Interesse Social do Porto Maravilha (Wonderful Port Social Housing Plan), PHIS-Porto. The meeting gathered 140 people, including representatives of civil society, government agencies and residents of the port area of Rio.

A fundamental tool to consolidate objectives of the Operação Urbana Porto Maravilha (Wonderful Port Urban Operation), the Plan contributes to the permanence of current residents in the area and to improve their quality of life, as well as increasing population density in the region and in downtown as a whole. This will bring closer residential and working places with positive impacts to urban mobility and public safety in a livelier and more integrated urban space.

The region is undergoing an extensive process of urban requalification, with new infrastructure networks and improved quality in the provision of municipal public services, such as trash collection, conservation and maintenance of public lighting. Saúde, Gamboa and Santo Cristo neighborhoods are undoubtedly experiencing an increase in value. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to prioritize services to the current population. After many decades of abandonment, this group must be the main beneficiary of positive transformations in progress.

The PHIS-Porto expands and intensifies the set of actions that the City Hall has begun to implement, focused on the social development of Port Region population. The municipality reclaimed real estates and organized a project to produce 500 housing units to families with an income of 1 to 2 minimum wages through the Minha Casa Minha Vida (My House My Life) program. Also, the municipality supported self-management housing projects that enable the assistance of approximately 220 families.

Wonderful Port legislation guarantees a set of tax, construction and urban incentives to build housing. Moreover, this legislation offers tax incentives to current residents of the region, contributing to the regularization of real estate ownership. As important as the provision of housing is the increase in income of the population.

In fact, the Wonderful Port represents thousands of opportunities for qualified jobs and businesses of any size. Several actions related to professional qualification, job market entry and support to mini and small entrepreneurs are in progress. The appreciation of heritage, especially immaterial, through recovering cultural and social manifestations of former residents is fundamental to strengthen the sense of belonging, contributing as well to the permanence of current residents.

The PHIS-Porto, which was created in partnership with agencies of the City Hall of Rio, includes the participation of civil society in its establishment. During this period of public consultation, there will be at least four thematic seminars to debate proposals for lines of action with representatives of civil society and residents. This participatory process should help finding ways to overcome historical challenges that limit residential occupation of urban centers.

The chance to review mechanisms of My House My Life will be very important to meet the specificities of the region, besides having real estate of the state, Union and government agencies, such as INSS, to enable housing. The municipality is already doing its part through facilitating urban rules and offering tax benefits in the area, besides expropriating real estate for this purpose with funds from the Urban Operation.

For each line of action, the Plan will establish commitments and goals that should be accomplished during the time the Urban Operation is in effect. The use and improvement of existing legal mechanisms will allow the expansion and acceleration of house construction; more swiftness in actions to improve housing and legalize land ownership; and the implementation of a Social Rental program, an option to meet the demands of groups, such as low-income workers and students, who are not looking for permanent residency in Downtown.

Bearing in mind the importance of the area, for its strategic location and historical relevance, the PHIS-Porto is for the City Hall of Rio de Janeiro a shift in paradigms for indicating paths and solutions to enable affordable housing in urban centers and strategies that make the process of urban transformation and requalification in itself a form of social-productive inclusion and reduction of inequalities.
By Alberto Silva, president of Cdurp, June 2015