In the May 1st column, I showed the huge housing needs of the metropolitan region of São Paulo, which total about 1.3 million units, 570 thousand of which refer to the accumulated deficit and 730 thousand to future demand, until 2040, constituted by new families that will form. Most of these housing needs are concentrated in the low-income population.
In the last column, I defended the strategy of the PDE (Strategic Master Plan) of 2014 of concentrating this densification, as a priority, on the mass public transport axes, on the railway line where former industrial areas are located and on empty or underused land and buildings inserted in the urbanized area, avoiding the horizontal expansion of the urban area.
There was no mention of the Special Areas of Social Interest (Zeis), intended for the production of social housing (HIS), where densification is also expected. The issue of affordable housing is one of the structural problems of the city (and the country) that, unfortunately, has been neglected.
In Zeis, utilization coefficients (relation between built-up area and land area) equal to four are allowed, with no limit to the height of buildings — the same rules as for public transport axes. With small housing units, population density is high.
The Zeis are a reserve of land for the production of HIS, removing them from competition with other uses and products in the real estate market. Conceptually, they were conceived as a strategy to allow the acquisition of well located land at low cost.
In Zeis 2 and 3, 60% of housing must be allocated to HIS 1 (up to three minimum wages), 20% to HIS 2 (from 3 to 6 SM) and 20% to affordable housing (HMP, from 6 to 10 SM) and other uses. On Zeis 5, 40% should be allocated to HIS 1 and 2, with the remainder for HMP and other uses.
In PDE 2014, the number of Zeis for the production of new units doubled and 8.6 million m² of Zeis 3, 14.9 million m² of Zeis 2 and 6.3 million m² of Zeis 5 were demarcated. In total, almost 30 million m² of land were reserved for the production of HIS.
In order to stimulate the production of HIS, a series of facilities was foreseen, such as exemption from onerous grant, tax benefits, flexibility in land use and occupation rules, etc., advantages that can be enjoyed both in Zeis and in housing developments of interest (EHIS) outside Zeis.
The strategy was successful with regard to the production of housing by the market, with FGTS resources, for the upper level of HIS 2 and HPM, (from 5 to 10 SM), but it failed because the city hall did not implement large-scale projects. scale for the poorest. Much was produced for the lower and middle middle classes, with densification and verticalization, but most of the low-income demand was left out.
When we chose, in the 2014 PDE, to allocate 60% of the housing units in Zeis 3 (the best located) to the range of up to 3 SM, we met a demand from the housing movement, but it was clear that in order to produce housing for this income bracket, participation and subsidies from the government would be indispensable. The market does not operate in this range.
As a result, the PDE earmarked 30% of Fundurb resources (a fund that receives the revenue from the onerous grant) for the purchase of properties in Zeis 3, destined for HIS in well-located areas. With the land guaranteed, the production of HIS 1 would be made possible, through subsidized housing programs, such as the former Minha Casa Minha Vida.
The city government, however, did not carry out this strategy. Although in 2015 and 2016 (in Haddad’s administration), the resources destined to housing reached about 40% of Fundurb, if the entire post-PDE period (2014 to 2021) is considered, only 17% of Fundurb’s collection was used in housing projects.
The PDE Application Diagnosis, prepared by the Municipal Department of Urban Planning and Licensing, shows that, effectively, housing production grew significantly in the period, but the priority income range, where the deficit is concentrated, was little contemplated.
Between 2014 and 2021, 278 thousand housing units of social interest were licensed, being 219 thousand of HIS 2 and HMP (78.6% of the total) and only 59 thousand of HIS 1 (21.4%).
In addition, the city government failed to monitor compliance with the income ranges provided for in the law, with strong indications that private entrepreneurs sell housing units that have significant tax and regulatory benefits for families with incomes higher than what should be met, in a scam to the legislation.
Producing housing for this intermediate range, between 5 and 10 MW, is necessary, as it represents a significant portion of future demand (about 35%). This has been done by the market, with federal public financing programs (FGTS) and facilities offered by municipal legislation, generating a significant increase in verticalization.
But for the poorest, very little has been done, which causes a strong densification in slums and precarious settlements, an increase in tenements in peripheral neighborhoods and a growth in the homeless population.
The Master Plan created the necessary conditions for housing production, as can be seen in the significant private production. What is lacking are public initiatives to serve the low-income.
Urban legislation is a necessary condition to boost housing production, but it is insufficient. Only with projects and public investment can the problem be tackled with the necessary priority.
The case of the Zeis in Morro do Querosene
The creation of Zeis in well-located regions is desirable, to bring housing closer to jobs and promote a mix of uses and social classes in the territory. But the demarcation of Zeis needs to be carefully planned so as not to generate disparate land occupation rules with the surroundings.
Due to an error in the PDE’s map of Zeis, which was not corrected in the Land Use and Occupancy Law, a small Zeis was demarcated in the middle of the houses on Morro do Querosene, where the gauge is limited to ten meters in height.
As in Zeis, the template is unlimited (to ensure better use of the land), the project for a building with more than 20 floors is being approved in the area, which will create an undesirable and irreversible impact on the neighborhood’s landscape.
This project needs to be revised to make its height compatible with the surroundings and the legislation needs to be changed to establish that the gauge of occasional Zeis like this needs to follow the urban rules of the surroundings.