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Rio Favela Facts | Catalytic Communities  June 21, 2018 – 09:52 pm


Favelas are places increasingly recognized by planners and architects for their:

  • Low-rise, high density development
  • Pedestrian orientation
  • High use of bicycles & public transportation
  • Mixed use (homes above shops)
  • Residence close to workplace
  • Organic architecture (architecture evolves according to need)
  • New urbanism
  • Collective action
  • Intricate solidarity networks
  • Vibrant cultural production


In the city of Rio, close to 1.5 million people – around 23-24% of the population – live in favelas. That’s comparable to the percentage living in affordable housing (public, rent controlled, cooperatives, community land trusts and other models) in major cities worldwide. Rio’s favelas are our affordable housing market Rio has more favela residents than any other Brazilian city and, all together, Rio’s favelas would comprise the ninth largest city in the country.


There are over 1000 favelas in Rio. They range from newer or more challenged communities with slum-like conditions and a desire to resettle, to highly-functioning, vibrant neighborhoods determined to maintain their qualities and continue developing in their own extraordinary ways.


Rio’s oldest favela, Providência, was founded in 1897 within a decade of the abolition of slavery, next to the Port that received two million enslaved Africans (four times the number taken to the entire United States).


According to a recent survey of six communities, 95% of favela homes are built of brick, concrete, and reinforced steel. 75% have tile floors. Residents put decades-worth of income and physical labor into the construction and consolidation of their homes. Peek inside and you’ll not only see the basics of electricity, running water and indoor plumbing, but a large-screen television and, in over 44% of cases, a computer. The increased presence of computers and other technologies allow for the fact that, as of 2012, nine out of ten favela residents under 30 could access the Internet. 2015 data showed that favela residents are more technologically connected than those living on the “asphalt, ” or formal city.


The 12 million people living in favelas across Brazil are responsible for generating R$38.6 billion per year in commercial activity, which is equivalent, for example, to the GDP of Bolivia. In 2001, 60% of favela residents belonged to the lower class and 37% to the middle class., 32% were in the lower class and 65% in the middle class. This shift corresponded with a 54.7% increase in the average wage in favelas from 2003 (US$269) to 2013 (US$460). This is significantly greater than the national average wage increase of 37.9% over the same period.


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