Favela Community Land Trust National Seminar, Part 1: Collective Ownership and Security of Tenure

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This is the first of two articles on the Favela Community Land Trust Brazil-wide Seminar.

The Favela Community Land Trust National Seminar took place from June 22-24, 2021. Organized by the Favela Community Land Trust Project (F-CLT)*, the event virtually brought together housing advocates from all 26 states of Brazil and the federal capital of Brasilia in a series of online events. The main objective was to introduce participants to the CLT model and invite them to reflect on the importance of formalizing housing while discussing the national legal framework for the right to housing.
On the first day of the event, with more than 250 participants and 600 registered, there were residents and community leaders, scholars and students on the subject, representatives of public bodies and citizens of all Brazilian states. Hosted by Tarcyla Fidalgo, coordinator of Favela Community Land Trust Project; Felipe Litsek, F-CLT project assistant; and Theresa Williamson, Executive Director of Catalytic Communities (CatComm), the organization responsible for the project, the event began with a brief introduction by Litsek, who welcomed participants, especially thanking the partners involved in the event. , including the National Forum for Urban Reform (FNRU), Brazilian Institute of Urban Law (IBDU), FCIA funds, World Habitat and the CLT Innovation Center. Litsek summed up the objective of the event in a few words: “It is a new instrument in Brazil… The objective is to discuss the right to housing and land ownership.

Williamson then describe an overview of the right to housing and the importance of land tenure security and community strengthening to avoid expulsion and gentrification. Thanks to the knowledge of other international CLTs, especially those of Porto Rico, or nine favelas have implemented this instrument with great success, Williamson reminded participants that “the situation of informal settlements is a global reality. 85% of homes in the world are built “illegally”. By 2050, nearly a third of all humanity will live in informal settlements. We enter this debate knowing that we have a choice. We can continue to see informal settlements as a problem or we can understand that they are part of our urban reality and think of solutions.

Williamson also presented Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs remind the public that the right to housing is not a luxury but rather a fundamental necessity. She also referred to the “20% rule” – the minimum percentage of residents without access to the formal, unsubsidized housing market in any city in the world. “To contextualize the right to housing in Brazil, there are currently eight million empty houses and 222,000 homeless people. We could also see the favelas as a collective solution.

Following these interventions, the audience was divided into groups supported by F-CLT project volunteers and CatComm members for 15 minutes to reflect on the need to formalize housing in informal settlements, while also covering the possible reasons. resistance to the regularization of land by residents.

Returning to the plenary, Fidalgo shared some of the feelings and perceptions participants expressed in the group sessions. She said that, on the one hand, some felt that land regularization would give better access to improvements and public services, empowering the community, while others feared that this process would lead to an increase in the cost of land. life for the residents, eventually evicting them.

Tarcyla Fidalgo talks about the land legitimation law described at the F-CLT national seminar

To further discuss the possibility of land regularization, Fidalgo present the three main categories of current land regularization frameworks in the Brazilian legal framework: use concessions [both Concession of Special Use for Housing Purposes (CUEM) and the Concession of Real Right to Use (CDRU)]; adverse possession (both individual urban adverse possession and collective urban adverse possession), and land legitimation. After this brief explanation, she invited the groups to divide again to discuss the positives and negatives of each of the most common formalization options in Brazil.

Tarcyla Fidalgo reflects on the pros and cons of land formalization in Brazil

During this exercise, an intervention by Jurema Constâncio, coordinator of the National Union of Popular Housing (UNMP) and resident of Jacarepagua, in the western zone of Rio de Janeiro, highlighted the difficulty of regularizing the territories. “We end up having to save history. My father used to plant coconut trees and on their end he had put a piece of aluminum with the date he had planted the tree. Since we had no way of proving that we had otherwise been in this territory and that we were entitled to it, that was the only way to guarantee that we could stay. We enter this [CLT] process trying to transform this space into collective property.

Back in plenary, Fidalgo made sure to mention some of the participants’ comments: they said they were concerned about the importance of having a title; on the social exclusion of residents; and to obtain security of tenure in their territories. These are the same factors that have led the team to turn to other countries with models that take into account the title and the guarantee of sustainability of the territory, adding a third very important factor: placing the inhabitants as protagonists of their territories and their dwellings. This is how the Favela Community Land Trust was born, as shown in animated video presentation of the project:

The CLT is a collective property management model, not yet realized in Brazil, born more than 50 years ago from the Black Movement in the struggle for civil rights in the United States. Thanks to this model, people generally most affected by real estate speculation and gentrification have their housing rights protected. In order to establish a CLT, the inhabitants create a local organization, a non-profit legal entity managed collectively by them and their supporters. “CLT is not an immediate solution that automatically provides land titles, precisely because this process ends up making the most vulnerable immediate targets of the speculative real estate market,” Fidalgo added.

Tarcyla Fidalgo presents the meaning of Community Land Trust.

Five elements characterize all CLTs around the world:

  1. Voluntary participation: No one is obliged to participate in a CLT. Individuals can freely choose to join an existing CLT, vote with their neighbors to develop a new CLT, or pool individual property titles. Registration is a must.
  2. Collective property land via the CLT: The CLT institution is the owner of all land on which a CLT operates, and is managed collectively.
  3. Detached houses: On the land of the CLT, the buildings of the CLT are owned or rented by residents whose owners can buy and sell their property. This can be selling at pre-set prices and / or buying and reselling homes through the CLT itself.
  4. Community control of the CLT: The management of the CLT is voted on by the residents of the community and determines the community qualities that will be developed through the CLT (e.g. housing, commercial activities, gardens, cultivation), with permanent affordability as the basic quality common to all CLTs. Community residents vote for a tripartite council to the CLT which includes owner-residents, neighbors with a vested interest in the community, and technical advisers from outside the community.
  5. Affordable at all times: The primary mandate of CLT is to maintain and develop CLT to remain affordable in perpetuity.

The project in Rio started with a workshop series in August 2018 organized in partnership with institutions focused on the right to housing. The Favela CLT working group was formed after this event. After these workshops, the Working Group began to reflect on the communities in the city that could be interested in being CLT pilots.

After the presentation of F-CLT as a land model under development for several years in Brazil, the participants were very curious about the idea of ​​collective management of property through a CLT.

Fidalgo concluded by inviting everyone to attend the next two days of the Favela Community Land Trust National Seminar. She also encouraged participants to submit their questions via a form available online. And she reflected, “It may appear that the CLT formalizes land like individual title deeds do. But the F-CLT process does not entail a continued risk of eviction or an increase in the cost of living, but rather a protection of a community’s ability to remain in place.

This is the first of two articles on the Favela Community Land Trust National Seminar.

Watch the first day of the F-CLT National Seminar here (in Portuguese):

*RioOnWatch and the Favela Community Land Trust (F-CLT) are initiatives of the NGO Catalytic communities (CatComm)


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