Sempre Jardim Edite
Project info

The Jardim Edite favela, located at the foot of the landmark Estaiada bridge in an affluent section of São Paulo, Brazil, was once home to more than 550 families. All are gone now, as the government of São Paulo has forced them to leave their homes to make room for a new development.

I first visited the neighborhood at the beginning of 2009. The place was still full of life then, the demolition had not begun. Men gathered around a television at a local bar, watching a football game, joking and laughing .

As I got to know the residents of the Jardim Edite, I could see the tension building in their faces, just below the surface. Some were angry, others scared because they didn’t know if they could find a new place to live for their families.

Many of the residents of Jardim Edite came from the countryside, often from poor rural communities in the North, seeking opportunity in the bright lights of the city. They built their homes first out of scrap wood and cardboard and whatever else they could find, but over the years some of the homes have grown into reinforced concrete structures with running water and electricity. Some residents lived there for more than 30 years.

City officials have long wanted to remove the ramshackle homes and businesses that make up Jardim Edite. As part of the Favela Urbanization Project the government plans to replace the favela with a modern housing development. In late 2008, a court order sealed the fate of this tight-knit community when a state tribunal judge said the project could go forward and the occupants should be evicted.

Life in Jardim Edite changed in early 2009. The parties stopped, the wrecking crews arrived, and the community was broken. Some residents, those who were previously registered with the city as official occupants of the favela, were eligible for rent subsidies or cash payouts if they left their homes. They were eligible for even larger cash payouts if they leave the city of São Paulo and return to the countryside. But these payouts were often not sufficient to find suitable housing. Many residents ended up moving to other favelas, with even worse living conditions.

Government plans call for a complex of buildings with 248 two- and three-bedroom. Officials from the Secretaria Municipal de Habitação (Municipal Department of Housing) have denied repeated requests for interviews and information about the proposed development project.

This story is the first chapter in an ongoing project about informal urban settlements, urban migration and squatter communities throughout the world.