Brazil: Informal Settlements



This case focuses on informal settlement housing and basic services planning in the municipality of Porto Alegre, Brazil. Placing themselves in the shoes of the city’s Municipal Housing Secretariat, students explore how to prioritize diverse infrastructure needs in rapidly expanding peri-urban settlements when working with new and long-term residents, short program timelines, limited funds, and constant changes in community needs.

Planning Topics

informal settlement planning, housing, infrastructure planning, community collaboration, program planning, policy implementation

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the tradeoffs between including and not including public participation in the planning process (how fast versus how slow this makes the process, the importance of public buy-in, etc.).
  2. Recognize the differences between establishing legal possession of land and providing essential infrastructure and other upgrades even if land is not legally owned.
  3. Consider the different priorities/values in housing and informal settlement upgrading projects (e.g., do you prioritize those who pay property taxes or those who are in most need?).
  4. Think about the diversity of informal settlement residents—not all poor have the same levels of poverty.
  5. Appreciate differences in planning perspectives—technical knowledge for optimal programs/plans versus the optimal plans from the perspective of the people who will benefit.
  6. Comprehend the importance residents place on basic infrastructure above new housing units.
  7. Identify the spectrum of legality and upgrading present in informal settlement projects.

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Suggested Readings

  1. Gilbert, A. 2007. The return of the slum: Does language matter? International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 31(4): 697-713. Read the abstract
  2. Jenkins, P., Smith, H. and Y. Wang. 2006. Chapter 7. In Planning and Housing in the Rapidly Urbanizing World. London: Routledge. Read an excerpt
  3. Das, Ashok and Lois Takahashi (2008). Evolving Institutional Arrangements, Scaling Up, and Sustainability: Emerging Issues in Participatory Slum Upgrading in Ahmedabad, India. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 29.Read the abstract
  4. Roy, Ananya (2012). Urban Informality: The Production of Space and Practice of Planning. In: The Oxford Handbook of Urban Planning. Read the abstract