“Battlers” and their homes: About self-production of residences made by the brazilian new middle class
The article presents preliminary results and qualitative analysis obtained from the doctoral research provisory entitled “How do Brazilian ‘battlers’ reside?”, which is in progress at the Institute for European Urban Studies, Bauhaus Univer-sity Weimar. It critically discusses the contradictions of the production of residences in Brazil made by an emerging so-cial group, lately called the Brazilian new middle class. For the last ten years, a number of government policies have provoked a general improvement of the purchasing power of the poor. Between those who completely depend on the government to survive and the upper middle class, there is a wide (about 100 million people) and economically stable lower middle group, which has found its own ways of dealing with its demand for housing. The conventional models of planning, building and buying are not suitable for their technical, financial and personal needs. Therefore, they are con-currently planners, constructors and residents, building and renovating their own properties themselves, but still with very limited education and technical knowledge and restricted access to good building materials and constructive ele-ments, formal technicians, architects or engineers. On the one hand, the result is an informal and more or less autono-mous self-production, with all sorts of technical problems and very interesting and creative spatial solutions to every-day domestic situations. On the other hand, the repercussions for urban space are questionable: although basic infrastructure conditions have improved, building densities are high and green areas are few. Lower middle class neigh-bourhoods present a restricted collective everyday life. They look like storage spaces for manpower; people who live to work in order to be able to consume—and build—what they could not before. One question is, to what extent the lat-est economic rise of Brazil has really resulted in social development for lower middle income families in the private sphere regarding their residences, and in the collective sphere, regarding the neighbourhoods they inhabit and the ur-ban space in general.