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The five companies that are helping to solve the South’s problems


In the least unequal of Brazilian regions, a population as long-lived as that of European countries are facing the typical difficulties of those approaching the end of a well-lived life. In no other place in Brazil does so many people die of cancer—although the per capita rates of doctors and hospital beds are among the highest in the country.

The cleanest and most densely forested Brazilian cities are to be found in the Southern states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Paraná. On the other hand, big cities like Curitiba and Porto Alegre have begun to face urban mobility problems due to their increasing fleet of cars.

In terms of housing, the South has seen a proliferation of enclaves of irregularly occupied areas — a side-effect of people leaving small towns to go to the suburbs of capital cities, where the best opportunities are found. “We are facing problems that are typical of fully-developed areas”, said Julio Suzuki Jr., research director at Paraná’s Institute for Economic Development.

The five entrepreneurs that appear on this piece, the second chapter of the Entrepreneurs – My Dream Moves Brazil Forward 2014 series, lead businesses that are growing by providing solutions to some of the region’s major challenges.

Terra Nova, from Curitiba, mediates agreements to regularize the homes of families living irregularly in private areas.

Agreements to regularize homes

The house of Rosária Jeremias, a 47-year-old retired nurse, stands out among the others at the neighborhood of Vila Nova, in the outskirts of Matinhos, a town in the coast side of Paraná. You can see the bright-yellow façade from a far distance. The walkway in the lawn is adorned with purple azaleas and dumbcanes. In the proper season, you can get ripen sugar-apples from the tree. “I love to tend to what’s mine”, said Rosaria.

It took long eight years for Rosaria’s piece of land to become truly hers, for part of her neighborhood was within a private area that was occupied in the mid-90s by homeless families. When Rosaria first came to Matinhos, in 2006, she joined into an agreement that Terra Nova, a land regularization firm based in Curitiba, offered to residents in order to regularize land ownership.

They were to pay an agreed sum to the land owners, which could be paid off in up to ten years. By the end of this period, they would be handed titles to their lots. “I’ve already got mine”, said Rosária.

André Albuquerque, the 48-year-old lawyer who founded Terra Nova, began working in land regularization in 2001 when he oversaw a housing project developed by the municipal government of Pinhais. The agreements mediated by the company follow a set of rules. The lot’s size, the time of residence and the family income are all taken into consideration.

Landowners and families agree to a reparation sum and Terra Nova collects the installments. It gets a 30-percent commission for the job. “The agreements are court-approved, it is a win-win situation”, said Albuquerque.

Part of the company’s work is to make sure that once the land ownership is regularized, utilities are extended to a neighborhood that did not even exist officially. Such was the case at Rosária’s place. A few years ago, she would avoid walking around at night for lack of street lighting.

The neighborhood was not served by waterworks either, and the sewage was dumped into small streams. The streets flooded when it rained. “The smell was awful”, said Rosaria. Things have now changed. With regularization, Vila Nova began receiving basic infrastructure facilities. “Houses now have water lines, and the streets are being paved with asphalt”, said Rosaria. Public lighting has become a reality too. Rosaria’s kids, the 9-year-old twins Gabriel and Victoria, can play freely in the streets.

The outlook of housing in the South could greatly improve if such stories happened more often. The region has the lowest number of slums in the country. However, the rate of people living in irregular areas in the outskirts of Curitiba and Porto Alegre is similar to that of Southeast and Northeast cities – where the housing predicament is way more serious and widespread.

Up to now, Terra Nova has regularized over 20,000 homes – half of them in the state of Paraná. The company’s revenues may reach 2.9 million reais in 2014, a 40-percent rise from 2013. According to government statistics, there are 170,000 irregular homes in the South, which means plenty of room for the company to grow.

To make this possible, Terra Nova has been receiving investments from fund managers like MOV, created by the founders of Natura, and CWB Capital, which manages assets from owners of family companies and personal investors living in Paraná and Santa Catarina.

“Mr. Albuquerque has managed to create a business model that combines social welfare and profits”, said Leonardo Jianoti, manager at CWB Capital. “Such companies have a real potential to enhance the region.”
Source: Exame magazine.