BRASÍLIA – A year after its launch, the Casa Verde e Amarela program has not yet taken off. Although the reduction in the interest rate has contributed to boosting financing, especially in the Northeast Region, other fronts of the Jair Bolsonaro government’s housing policy are hampered by the lack of resources in the Budget. Delivery of new homes is below the average of recent years, and so far zero homes have been regularized or targeted for renovations. The financial insecurity surrounding the program arouses criticism at a time when families lose income and suffer from evictions in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic.
In 2021, the federal government completed around 20,000 housing units in the former Minha Casa, Minha Vida tier 1 (for families with monthly income of up to R$2,000), a number below the average of recent years: from 2009 to September By 2020, 1.49 million homes were delivered, according to a report by the Federal Comptroller General (CGU). The continuity of the other works, however, is threatened by the lack of resources, and there is a risk of stoppage in early September, as shown by the Estadão/Broadcast. New hires are an even more distant plan.
The government has said that the delivery of new houses will no longer be the only aspect of the housing policy, but news such as the regularization of land or housing renovations have not yet left the paper. So far, zero homes have been regularized or improved.
The national secretary for Housing at the Ministry of Regional Development, Alfredo Santos, says that the ministry did not stand still and, in this last year, worked on the bases of the first public notice, which will be released in September. Up to 107 thousand housing regularizations will be contracted, in addition to improvements in 20% of them, with around R$ 300 million made available immediately by the Social Development Fund (FDS), supplied with money from companies. These are private resources, that is, there is not a penny in the budget for this branch of Casa Verde e Amarela.
While the housing policy is strangled by the lack of money, Gilma Sousa Lima, 44, looks to the age of her daughter, now 20, as a reference to calculate how long she has been waiting for her own home. The search began when her daughter was just three years old, and Gilma was a single mother. After 17 years, she had to make the school where she works as a janitor, in the south of São Paulo, her own home. There she lives with her husband and daughter. Queuing for a house, she has little hope but says she won’t give up.
“I’m the school’s janitor. I open and close, so we don’t pay the rent. (We live) in the school’s janitor. My dream was for my daughter to have a room for her, and so far I haven’t even managed to get a house,” she says.
The bridge between Gilma and the wait for a popular house is made by the Movement for the Right to Housing (MDM) São Paulo, which has an agreement with the Metropolitan Housing Company (Cohab). With the stoppage of new hires for the poorest group, however, there were no more conditions for the projects to be continued.
“The biggest difficulty is when the government changes. When it changes, it paralyzes”, says Gilma. She, who receives a minimum wage, and her husband, who works as a motorcycle courier, cannot access Casa Verde e Amarela. “If it’s not through some movement, with my salary, I’ll never get (a loan).”
Secretary Alfredo Santos recognizes that the future of regularizations, renovations and construction of houses depends on money in the budget. For 2022, the MDR asked for R$ 800 million for the regularization and improvement policy, which, together with another portion of FDS resources, would include up to 280 thousand homes. Without public money, the capacity drops to 60,000 homes. “We are insistently asking that we be attended to, but, yes, we still depend on the Budget”, says the secretary.
The budget proposal for 2022 will be sent next Tuesday (31) and the initial distribution of resources is made according to a government decision, usually centered on the Budget Execution Board (JEO), formed by the ministers of the Civil House, Ciro Nogueira, and of the Economy, Paulo Guedes. For next year, the economic team has been reporting difficulties in finding resources for works, given the growth in mandatory expenses. Bolsonaro has also committed to allocating part of the 2022 fiscal space to expand Bolsa Família, renamed Auxílio Brasil.
lack of political will
the president of Brazilian Chamber of Construction Industry (CBIC), José Carlos Martins, criticizes the government’s stance in relation to the housing program. “It’s the lack of political will to put money into this issue. It’s a contracted work, in progress, and you have to pass the saucer as if it were a favor”, he says. He recalls that the government’s housing policy plays an important social role, especially in a scenario of increased vulnerabilities due to the pandemic. “The bureaucrat doesn’t understand this side, that it’s not just a checkbook, just money. That has a social slant, bigger than the mere fact of the money being put there.”
Since Casa Verde e Amarela was launched, movements linked to the right to housing agenda have criticized the program for the lack of resources to hire new homes for the low-income public, who earn up to R$2,000 a month. the president of National Confederation of Residents’ Associations (Conam), Getúlio Vargas Jr, recalls that the housing deficit (the amount of decent housing that is lacking) is almost 6 million homes in Brazil, and the situation was aggravated by the pandemic.
Data from National Zero Evictions Campaign show that the number of families threatened with eviction from their homes has increased. More than 91 thousand families across Brazil are in this situation, 485% more than a year ago. The states that most concentrate this problem are São Paulo (36,883), Amazonas (19,173) and Pernambuco (9,299).
“We noticed an increase in impoverishment, people suffering from hunger and without the right to housing. The fact is that there is a contrast: there are more removals, evictions, because with this crisis, families cannot afford to pay rent, and the deficit, which was already high , it gets even bigger”, says the president of Conam.
Despite the budget difficulties, secretary Alfredo Santos makes a positive assessment of the measure that reduced the program’s interest rates for families to finance their own home. Before, the North and Northeast regions had low hiring rates, precisely because the families in these places have lower income and ability to pay for a loan. With the change, the growth in hiring was more expressive, especially in the Northeast.
According to MDR data, there was an increase of 24.4% in financing in the Northeast Region in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period last year, against a 12% increase in the national average. In absolute numbers, however, the Southeast still accounts for the largest absolute share of financing: 88.4 thousand, or more than half of the R$ 177 thousand registered in the first six months of the year.
On the other hand, Martins, from CBIC, ponders that part of the relief with the reduced interest was “swallowed” by the increase in civil construction costs, which also makes real estate more expensive. The National Construction Cost Index (INCC) has already accumulated an increase of more than 17% in the last 12 months.
“It has two components, cost and interest. Lowered the interest, so theoretically this person acquired greater purchasing power, but as the cost increased, swallowed this difference. One thing killed the other”, says Martins.
Vargas, from Conam, says that about 90% of families that are in the housing deficit have income of up to three minimum wages and, therefore, are unable to access financing. For him, the scenario is one of emptying the housing policy and there is no prospect of change while the spending ceiling lasts, a rule that limits the advance of spending to inflation. “There will be no housing policy as long as there is a spending ceiling, because to invest in the social or infrastructure area, it will have to be taken from another area. At this moment, only making housing fight with health, education and other social policies”, he criticizes.