Terra Nova is a social enterprise committed to the sustainable regularization of illegally occupied properties in Brazil’s urban areas.
Focus: Land Ownership, Urban Planning, Civic Participation
Geographical Area of Impact: Brazil
Model: Social Business
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 5,700 families (2001-2011)
Recognition: Regional Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Latin America, 2009; SEOY, Brazil, 2008
About 12.4 million Brazilians live in 3.2 million informal dwellings lacking access to public services such as water, electricity and waste collection. Most of these dwellings are located in the favelas (urban shanty towns), beset by environmental degradation, disease and violence. In Sao Paulo, economically the largest and most important city in the country, there are 1,587 favelas, more than half of which are located illegally on public land. The absence of a housing policy for low-income groups is one of the biggest factors in illegal land occupation in the country.
Innovation and Activities
André Albuquerque founded Terra Nova as a social enterprise committed to the sustainable regularization of illegally occupied properties in urban areas. Terra Nova acts as an intermediary between legal land owners and land occupiers, to discover a positive solution for both sides. Regularization of these dwellings has usually depended on actions by the public sector, which is overwhelmed and underfinanced. Government policies, when carried out, have been restricted to expropriations and urbanization services.
Regularizing land ownership is expensive and not an attractive priority for politicians. Terra Nova was founded to resolve conflicts that had dragged on in the courts for years. The land regularization process brings a final resolution to the conflict between landowners and occupants. Property rights are transferred to the occupants after payment of an indemnity, and the title deed goes to the current occupants of the plots. Landowners are exempted from having to pay taxes accruing on the occupied area. For each plot of land negotiated, 40% of the indemnity payment goes to Terra Nova and 20% into a clearance fund used for projects within a community. The remainder goes to the original property owner, who accepts the deal, even if depreciated, to avoid long court cases that languish in the judicial system and rarely guarantee the return of the property.
In all the communities regularized by Terra Nova, the quality of life for low-income families has improved. When title deeds are awarded the local community government starts to supply water, electricity, a postal code, basic sanitation and public transport to the residents. This partnership represents a historic milestone in the country, as the state changes its role from provider to supporting player in an initiative promoting improvement in the lives of those most in need. Terra Nova directly negotiates with the public authorities for structural improvements in the regularized neighbourhoods, and indirectly by encouraging the formation of neighbourhood associations.
Bringing peaceful resolution to conflicts is a life mission for lawyer André Albuquerque. Standing against the tide of people who recriminate against profit in Brazil, he established Terra Nova as a social business. His idea is to capitalize those who have no access to funds. When occupants become owners they can obtain bank loans, and when a community becomes a legally recognized entity it gains the right to improvements, such as paved streets and a sewerage system.
André L. Albuquerque