A book produced by the Metropolis Studies Center and Minister of Cities shows that a third of municipalities do not have the structure to manage housing policies

Study maps municipal capacity to implement housing policies

August 15, 2012

By Fábio de Castro

Agência FAPESP – A study conducted by the Metropolis Studies Center (CEM) in partnership with the Minister of Cities has mapped the evolution of instruments for housing policy management in Brazilian municipalities from 2000 to 2010.

The results of the work were compiled in the book The Administrative Capacity of Brazilian Municipalities for Housing Policy (Capacidades Administrativas dos Municípios Brasileiros para a Política Habitacional), released on July 19 during a seminar on the topic in São Paulo. CEM, a FAPESP Research Innovation and Dissemination Center (CEPID), began providing open access to the book on its web site.

The study, coordinated by Marta Arretche, professor at the Universidade de São Paulo’s Political Science Department, was conducted using data from the Basic Information Study on Municipalities (Munic) from the Brazilian Geography and Statistics Institute (IBGE).

According to Arretche, the study demonstrates that the creation of the National Social Interest Housing System (SNHIS) in 2005 led municipalities to create important management instruments for public housing policy.

Arretche explained that the Brazilian Housing System presupposes the existence of functional, coordinated administrative structures at the three levels of government. However, due to the considerable heterogeneity of the municipalities, the system has extremely complex engineering.

“The study sought to map the evolution of this system throughout the decade and demonstrated that federal coordination became more effective after 2005. It was also possible to confirm the importance of a national system underpinning municipal policies,” Arretche commented in an interview with Agência FAPESP.

According to Arretche, the study maps the existence of important instruments for public housing policies. These instruments include registries to identify municipal housing deficits, councils and municipal housing funds, and the existence of housing entities, such as specific secretariats or dedicated sectors in other secretariats.CEM developed a special methodology for this purpose.

“We have municipalities with populations that range from 800 to 11 million inhabitants and an immense number of very diversified average municipalities. The existing management instruments vary as much as the large array of housing problems. The novelty of this methodology is that it attempts to capture this diversity, affording comparisons among municipalities based on the situation in each municipality over time,” she explained.

Approximately one-third of the municipalities do not have a structure for managing housing policies, according to the study. Approximately 4% of the municipalities have secretariats dedicated exclusively to housing.

“The existence of specialized municipal bureaucracy, although not enough, is a fundamental condition for public housing policies in the cities,” Arretche affirmed.

According to Arretche, the most broadly disseminated housing policy is a registry that allows managers to determine whether there are families with housing needs. “In 2004, more than 73% of the municipalities had this resource. In 2009, the instrument existed in 80% of the municipalities,” she said.

At the end of the decade, almost two-thirds of Brazilian municipalities had some type of management for housing policies, according to the study. The instruments that were most prominent among Brazilian municipalities from 2003-2009 were councils and municipal funds.

“At the beginning of the decade, only 14% of municipalities had councils and 7.4% had housing funds. At the end of the decade, approximately 43% of municipalities had a council or a municipal housing fund,” Arretche noted.

The decision by municipalities to install a housing management policy varies based on the size of each town, according to the study. “The lack of a management body is largely concentrated in small municipalities of up to 20,000 inhabitants in the Southeast region  –  probably because they already have statewide policies and do not need to utilize resources to implement these structures,” Arretche explained.

The “institutional death” of the organ, a category used to designate a situation in which the municipal government decides to close a housing secretariat or department, is strongly associated with the geographical region, according to the study. “Institutional death occurs most often in the North, Midwest and Northeast outside metropolitan regions,” Arretche said.

Small municipalities witness a smaller presence of housing policy management bodies, which are found more frequently in large-scale, medium-scale or urbanized municipalities. Municipalities in the North and Northeast with less than 20,000 inhabitants and little urbanization tend to have the fewest number of municipal housing councils.

The study also mapped the main types of housing programs implemented by the municipalities. The most frequent option was construction of housing units: 61% of Brazilian municipalities implemented housing construction programs in 2007-2008. “Regarding intergovernmental cooperation, 41% of all municipalities implemented their programs in cooperation with the federal government, while 29% cooperated with the states,” Arretche affirmed.

Improvements to housing units (47%), supplying construction materials (36%) and offering lots (25%) were the categories of programs most frequently adopted by municipalities in the 2007-2008 period. The least frequently used category was urbanization of settlements, accounting for only 14%.

Methodological rigor

According to Junia Santa Rosa, the Director of the Department of Institutional Development and Technical Cooperation at the Ministry of Cities, the study’s great merit is the methodological and conceptual rigor guaranteed by CEM’s participation.

“We rarely find this depth in a study on the urban and housing question. It is important to offer a set of tools and instruments for statistical analysis and econometrics to deal with this topic,” Santa Rosa said. 

According to Santa Rosa, the work demonstrates that the national system is fundamental to the creation of municipal instruments. “The national housing system is fulfilling this inducive role. Confirming this is essential to improving domestic policy,” she affirmed.

According to Santa Rosa, the existence of these instruments in municipalities does not solve housing problems, but it is nevertheless fundamental. “Having a national system and implementing funds, plans and councils in the cities is not enough, but all are necessary conditions for municipalities to manage their projects,” Santa Rosa said.