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Master's Professional Reports Abstract

Low-Income Urban Housing Policy at the Intersection of State and Society: Political Decentralization, Grassroots Participation and New Policy Actors in Brazil

The theoretical paradigms that influence the way developing nations seek to shelter their poorest urban dwellers have shifted dramatically over the past thirty years. From an over-extended role for government in the provision of housing to the present reliance upon market forces to supply low-cost alternatives, international prescriptions have run the gamut on how best to construct structurally sound low-income housing units. The fact remains, however, that neither public- nor private- sector approaches have made significant advances in reducing housing deficits. Instead, a growing consensus exists that local-level management of housing and urban infrastructure projects that incorporate input from a variety of policy actors is the best way to address current housing needs. This approach entails the opening of adequate policy spaces to allow neighborhood associations, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations to influence state and municipal government agencies and private enterprises in formulating and implementing more effective urban housing initiatives. Such a framework is particularly relevant in nations undergoing the decentralization of state authority and the democratization of political processes. This report examines housing in the Brazilian context, focusing on the municipality of Bel Horizonte, to reach the conclusion that the success of low-income housing policies depends upon the level of grassroots participation and input in both the process and content of housing initiatives.

--Author's foreword.


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