About three years ago (March 2009 to be precise) the Brazilian Government finally launched a long-awaited scheme to try and ease the country's chronic housing shortage. After long consideration it was decided that the main aim in this particular programme was to build and provide decent, affordable homes for people of modest incomes to buy.
It was intended that the approach would be a combined one of the type known as PPP (Public-private partnership) elsewhere in the world but that this co-operative venture between the two sectors would be one especially tailored for Brazilian conditions. One feature was the seeking of short to medium term private investment, with firm guarantees.
Obviously other social housing schemes also existed in the country and these continued in parallel, mainly targeting the rental sector.
However, this new purchasers' scheme was something quite novel. It was dubbed 'Minha Casa Minha Vida' (My house, My life) and was intended to provide people of the burgeoning lower middle classes with a property-owning stake in their country, for the very first time. To assist them, a whole new range of mortgages for individuals was created and launched, of a type which hadn't existed up to then.
To put the scheme 'in a nutshell', the aim is to build three million new homes of this kind by the end of 2014, carefully distributed throughout the regions and states of Brazil. The project is now well into its second phase of development and has proved, as expected, immensely popular. This is so much true that when local schemes are launched, there is a draw among eligible applicants to determine priority of allocation (at least among those on the more modest incomes of the two levels of eligibility).
There are firm qualifying conditions for both levels. The main one is to keep the scheme for the people it is intended for. For example, applicants on the basic rung may only have incomes up to three times minimum wage and be pre-allocated suitable mortgages by Caixa. Tighter conditions apply to the 'upper tier' of people on incomes of between 3 and 10 times the minimum wage. These particular homes are sold by real-estate agents according to first come first served'.
There is no doubt that Minha Casa Minha Vida is fulfilling its promise of making a significant dent in the country's housing shortage. Brazilians acknowledge that there is still far to go before homelessness has been eradicated but they are justifiably proud of this scheme. The Ecohouse Group has, if anything, been even more proud to be in the forefront of this marvellous project.