The Roofless Movement in São Paulo, Brazil : Root Causes, Characteristics and Challenges
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Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo, faces a huge housing deficit. Many people are affected by the housing problem, and the demand for decent housing is high. The roofless movement in São Paulo is extensive, and has been since it emerged in the beginning of the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands of people are organized in or affiliated with the movement. Their main repertoire is occupying buildings and land to pressure the local government to prioritize social housing projects. Recently the movement has had an upswing in activity; the number of occupations has tripled during mayor Fernando Haddad’s (PT) term. This thesis explores the roofless movement in São Paulo and its root causes, characteristics and challenges. It shows that the massive and persistent socio-economic inequality contributes to explain the prevalence of the roofless movement. It also looks into the internal fragmentation, and goes in depth on two roofless organizations within the movement; the Roofless Workers Movement – Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem-Teto (MTST) and the Roofless Movement of São Paulo – Movimento Sem-Teto do São Paulo (MSTS). Even though they belong to the same social movement, they differ on a range of characteristics, one of them being political affiliation. Historically the roofless movement has had strong ties to the Worker’s Party PT. This thesis looks into how some roofless organizations have found new political allies, and how this affects the movement as a whole. There have been few studies on roofless organizations with bonds to the political right. This study gives new insight on this issue. Currently, the movement faces a range of challenges, both towards the external environment, and internally within the movement. Lack of political leeway makes progress on the housing issue slow, and fragmentation within the movement may in the long-term lead to a weakening of the movement’s demands. This thesis goes in depth on these challenges; it aims to deepen the understanding of an important social movement – the roofless movement in São Paulo.