Soluções Urbanas in Niterói, Brazil
Soluções Urbanas (SU), a Brazilian NGO operates in the Niterói municipality's Morro do Vital favela, just across the Guanabara Bay from Rio de Janeiro. The original objective of SU program centers around the Family Architect Project. This project created architectural plans for 100 housing renovations in the community by working with families to identify needs and desires for each house, and took into account serious structural and living condition issues. SU is now actualizing the original architectural designs, training families in sustainable housing renovation techniques to improve the quality of their informal housing, and establishing a local market to acquire building materials in exchange for recyclables.
APA is partnering with SU to expand the Family Architect Project. APA will provide technical assistance to develop building construction and awareness programs, foster a local skilled labor pool, and implement microcredit lending for a housing improvement materials bank. A unique aspect of SU's endeavors is the Exchange Fair. This Exchange Fair is where used TetraPak containers are exchanged for a local currency; the local currency's only value is to purchase of donated construction materials. The containers are then turned into roof tiling available at the Exchange Fair; a full circle of materials. The project has potential to be replicated in other locations through Brazil, as Federal Law 11.888/2008 guarantees technical assistance for the planning and construction of houses for families who earn less than three times the minimum wage. In addition, APA will support microcredit lending and a program to train people to enter the construction sector.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Building on the official confirmation of formal support from APA through the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Sustainable and Inclusive Housing and Community Development Subgrant, the NGO Soluções Urbanas (SU) held a media launch event for the expansion of its Arquiteto de Familia (Family Architect). The event was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, an iconic work by famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, in the city of Niteroi, where SU operates, across the Guanabara Bay from Rio de Janeiro. They are now seeking support through individual and corporate donations of funds and materials.
Mariana Estevão, director of SU, introduced the NGO's history and its partnership with Instituto Vital Brazil (IVB), an endowed research institute that focuses on applied science and technology for public health. Antonio Verneck, president of IVB, then explained the institute's history, dating back to 1919 under the leadership of its namesake, biologist Vital Brazil, and since the 1950s its direct operation by the State of Rio de Janeiro. Shortly after its founding, SU partnered with IVB to initiate their work in the neighboring favela, Morro Vital Brazil, which formed on the hillside next to the neighborhood that took its name from the institute.
Both Estevão and Verneck agreed on the importance of pursuing grant opportunities knowing that not all will bear fruit, but happily segueing to the positive news of APA's support. Gregory Scruggs, Consultant to the APA for Latin America and the Caribbean, in turn provided background on the APA and ECPA initiative and explained the criteria for the award, why SU merited it, and the kind of support — financial and technical assistance — that APA will provide. Estevão in turn related how SU will use that support to incorporate more families into the Family Architect program and establish a materials bank that will allow the project to scale up by storing construction supplies that families earn by recycling TetraPak packaging and receiving a local currency for use at the Solidarity Economy Exchange Market.
The conversation then shifted to policy issues, such as SU and IVB's efforts to convince the federal government to fund renovations with its large-scale Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My House, My Life) low-income housing program. At present, basically all of the funding is going to new construction. In addition, representatives on the panel from the regional governance body Conleste (Consortium of Eastern Fluminense Municipalities) and the state government closed out with some general comments about how important this work is and expressing their support at the regional and state level, respectively.
APA participated in media launch for Soluções Urbanas held in Niterói in late October.