Cleaning Up Favelas

Urban development officials in Rio de Janeiro have begun an ambitious effort to integrate an estimated 175 favelas that provide makeshift housing for some 800,000 impoverished Rio residents into the permanent neighborhoods that border or surround them, reports Alina Dieste in Bdsqueda, the independent newsweekly of Montevideo.

Maria Lucia Petersen, who set up the program financed by the Inter-American Development Bank, notes that city authorities seek to "incorporate favelados into the formal city as typical citizens, with rights and responsibilities." While government assistance in renovation of favela infrastructure marks "only the first step for favelados to assume their role as citizens, the change of attitude that we are seeing in the people in bringing dignity to their physical space is impressive," Petersen says. The payoff for favela residents: Rio authorities will grant participants legal title to their land and homes once their property is upgraded.