Crowdfunding property in downtown São Paulo:

The case of FICA fund

Renato Cymbalista, Fabiana Endo, Roberto Fontes and Rodrigo Millan

Published in Issue 3.2 // Retrospectives

Keywords: rental housing, community housing, community land, tenement houses, São Paulo, Brazil


Brazilian housing policies have been historically based on private property. There is no national policy or fund for rental, and with few exceptions like the program for affordable housing in the city of São Paulo, local policies do not address this issue either. In 2015, a group came together in São Paulo to think about non-speculative property in Brazil. Some points they converged on included: the will to go beyond the outcry over segregation and gentrification; the awareness that regular private property traded on the market cannot meet social demands nor lead to a just city; the idea of ​​offering solutions to the State, instead of simply demanding solutions from public authorities; a desire to reframe the relations between theory and practice in urban studies. Since then, the response has been experimental and incremental, the product being the carving of FICA, a fund run by a non-profit – the Community Property Association. Since 2017, it has run a flat in downtown São Paulo, donated by early supporters, and rents it at non-speculative prices. In 2021, FICA bought a second flat, fully crowdfunded, and is also experimenting with social investments for shared housing. Currently, FICA controls four properties in different tenure regimes. The text describes FICA’s short and intense history as a unique organization in Brazil. The article hacks the country’s property regulation in order to promote socially progressive and non-speculative models of real estate property.

Renato Cymbalista is a professor at the School of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo (FAU-USP). He is an associate and one of the directors of FICA. He sits on the board of Casa do Povo, Frente Alimenta, and Instituto Pólis. Was guest professor at the universities BTU Brandenburg; Paris VII (Diderot) and Parsons – the New School of Design.

Fabiana Endo is FICA’s institutional coordinator. She has a B.Sc. in Civil Engineering from the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo (EP-USP), with a dual formation on Architecture and Urbanism.

Roberto Fontes de Souza is FICA’s project manager. He has a B.Sc. in Architecture in Urbanism from the Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) and holds an M.A. in Housing Studies from the University of São Paulo (FAU-USP). An urban planner with expertise in urban development, social housing, urban infrastructure projects, and public rental housing in eight states and forty cities in Brazil.

Rodrigo Millan is a FICA associate and one of its founding members. He has a B.Sc. in Sociology from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and holds a Ph.D. in Architecture and Urbanism from the University of São Paulo (FAU-USP). Currently, he is a post-doctoral researcher at the School of History of Universidad Diego Portales (Chile), funded by the Chilean National Agency for Research and Development (ANID). He is also a professor at the School of Architecture in the same university.

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