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Special Collection: Housing Adaptability


Lack of adaptability in Brazilian social housing: impacts on residents


Simone Barbosa Villa ,

Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism and Design (FAUeD), Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU), Uberlândia, BR
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Paula Barcelos Vasconcellos,

Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism and Design (FAUeD), Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU), Uberlândia, BR
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Karen Carrer Ruman de Bortoli,

Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism and Design (FAUeD), Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU), Uberlândia, BR
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Lucio Borges de Araujo

Faculty of Mathematics (FAMAT), Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU), Uberlândia, BR
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Brazilian social housing is used to address the country’s housing deficit through government programs with the massive production of standardised affordable housing. This non-systemic approach is shown to neglect residents’ changing needs over time and results in inflexible housing in relation to environmental, constructive, and social issues. The use of inappropriate spatial patterns fails to account for residents’ current socioeconomic and spatial realities. Quantitative/qualitative methods involving residents (n = 162) and two case studies are used to assess resilience in social housing. The costs and implications arising from a lack of housing adaptability are identified. An ‘impact assessment’ tool is employed to document the shocks and tensions experienced by residents along with the negative effects on the house and its occupants. These impacts increase the vulnerability of families and hinder their adaptive capacity. The identification of major impacts and residents’ perceptions can be used to establish priorities for action.


Policy relevance

Post-occupancy evaluation (POE) processes provide a more systemic approach to identifying and resolving the problems of creating housing fit for purpose. An impact evaluation tool was developed to help with a positive transformation. This indicates how architects, urban planners, and communities can act to mitigate and solve the problems experienced by users of social housing. The use of systemic POE in social housing can inform policies and planning practices that address the needs of residents. It is also intended to provide design information to agents involved in the production of social housing in Brazil, notably designers and users, in order to foster effective strategies to promote more resilient housing, especially in scenarios of intervention and renovations during use. These tools and processes contribute to fulfilling Habitat III’s New Urban Agenda and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 1, 10, and 11).

How to Cite: Villa, S. B., Vasconcellos, P. B., de Bortoli, K. C. R., & de Araujo, L. B. (2022). Lack of adaptability in Brazilian social housing: impacts on residents. Buildings and Cities, 3(1), 376–397. DOI:
  Published on 14 Jun 2022
 Accepted on 19 Apr 2022            Submitted on 04 Oct 2021

1. Introduction

To thrive in the face of the diverse challenges of the built environment, it is necessary to learn how to build adaptability and resilience in diverse scenarios. Social housing should be understood as part of a larger urban system requiring solutions in various dimensions: physical, cultural, economic, political, and environmental. In Brazil, social housing is used to address the housing deficit through the government’s Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida (PMCMV—My House My Life Program) since 2010 (Caixa Habitação Urbana 2019). This program was a response to a proliferation of informal buildings produced without proper technical assistance. It is based on a standard solution for mass housing production (Dalla Vecchia & Medvedovski 2021). However, this mass housing program is problematic. As will be shown, it fails to provide for the changing needs of residents over time, e.g. the arrival of children and ageing, starting a business at home or hosting relatives in a situation of need.

The adaptability of homes involves social and cultural issues, as well as technical and construction challenges. In the case of Brazilian social housing, different considerations are needed, mainly environmental, spatial, and social adaptability. Such facilitators of resilience (Garrefa et al. 2021; Villa et al. 2022) include flexibility, environmental comfort, and adequacy, as well as social engagement. Flexibility is the ability of the environment to adapt to changes in the face of the needs of its users (Habraken 1972; Till & Schneider 2005; Schmidt & Austin 2016; Parreira 2020). Research indicates the importance of adaptable living environments to support work, schooling, and socialising at home. This reinforces the benefit of accommodating a variety of uses over the building’s lifespan by increasing its spatial adaptability (Pelsmakers et al. 2020). Environmental comfort (Bortoli 2018) is the ability of the physical and social environment to adapt to adverse and extreme weather conditions (IPCC 2021). Current housing needs to maintain environmental adequacy and be able to adapt to future conditions: floods, warmer weather (Gething 2013), lack of energy and water supplies, as well as less predictable events, e.g. the spread of new diseases. Finally, the social adaptability of housing ensures greater fluidity at work or study places, considering changing demands on the home environment (Holliss 2015).

The present research project ‘[BER_HOME] Resilience in the Built Environment in Social Housing’ deals specifically with built environment resilience. It considers the capacity of the built environment to absorb, adapt, and transform itself to deal with different impacts and existing demands (Hassler & Kohler 2014; Garcia & Vale 2017). The research evaluates the factors that constitute resilience in the built environment in social housing, also identifying the main design attributes that give it resilience. In order to achieve this objective, a Resilient House Evaluation Matrix was created. The matrix presents attributes and indicators for the promotion of resilient social housing. For this, ‘pilot’ assessment tools were developed: the Impact Assessment (IA) questionnaire and the Resilience Ruler (RR). The tools were used in two case studies (one-story houses and apartment units developments) produced by the PMCMV, located in the city of Uberlândia, MG, Brazil. For this, technologically advanced methodological procedures for evaluation (performance and post-occupancy) were developed using digital tools specially developed for data collection and tabulation.

This article is a summary of a study initially published in Portuguese with the aim of making pertinent methods and results accessible to the wider research, policy, and practitioner communities.

The main analysis of findings from the IA tool performance is presented in this paper, focusing on the evaluation and comparison of two PMCMV developments. The main causes of problems in the scenarios are identified. The negative effects on the home and the residents were measured, indicating the level of disturbance perceived by the residents. Post-occupancy evaluation (POE) processes (Garrefa et al. 2021; Stevenson 2019) offer a more systemic approach to problems. The potential of the IA tool to help with the positive transformation of the current situation is discussed, focusing on the main effects perceived by inhabitants, which can be used to establish clear priorities for intervention in the future.

2. Background

2.1 Brazilian social housing

The lack of quality housing, combined with inefficient public policies, has made the supply of social housing in Brazil an ongoing problem since the mid-20th century to the present day (Moreira Cavalcante 2016; Dalla Vecchia & Medvedovski 2021). Brazil’s urbanisation process resulted in a huge housing deficit, estimated at around 5.8 million dwellings in 2019 (Fundação João Pinheiro 2021).

Since 2009, Brazil has constructed an unprecedented large number of social housing projects through the federal government’s PMCMV. In approximately 11 years, it has constructed 6 million housing units, with an investment of R$223.2 billion (Relatório de Avaliação, Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida 2020).1 Between 2009 and 2019, the PMCMV covered families in three different income brackets, most notably low-income families earning up to three times the minimum wage.2 The PMCMV aimed to boost the civil construction sector and reduce the country’s housing deficit by encouraging homeownership.

According to the rules of Caixa (the financing bank of the PMCMV), mortgage payments could be made up to 120 months, with monthly payments ranging from R$80.00 to R$270.00 depending on gross family income.3 The guarantee for the financing was the property itself, and most of the final value was financed by the government (Bortoli 2018). After paying all the installments, the beneficiary of the program became the owner, who had to observe some restrictions regarding the maintenance and alterations of the property during the financing period:

The execution of renovations and expansions in the property, which alter and/or compromise the installations and calculations of the original project, will result in the total loss of the warranty by the construction company, as well as if damages are found due to misuse or overloading of the permissible limits of the installations and original structures.4

The housing units offered by the PMCMV are characterised by a single standard typology: approximately 32–37 m2 in area, of structural masonry construction, and a minimum accommodation comprising a living room, two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, and laundry area. This typology, for both single-story houses and apartment units is used repeatedly in practically all the different and complex Brazilian contexts. After a few years of occupancy, several changes5 by residents were observed, involving the removal of walls and the construction of new single-story rooms, mostly without technical assistance. Several studies carried out at national and local levels have demonstrated the extent of the problems faced by residents of social housing projects in the PMCMV (Amore et al. 2015; Villa et al. 2015). These standardised housing templates are disconnected from local social, economic, cultural, climatic, and environmental concerns (Formoso et al. 2011; Dalla Vecchia & Kolarevic 2020).

The procurement process for social housing has generally followed the rules and dynamics of the private real estate market, becoming primarily profit based and relegating housing quality. As a consequence, social housing estates are typically located in peripheral areas of the city (because of the low price of land), disconnected from the urban fabric, and without any consolidated or pre-established infrastructure. This increases its social and environmental vulnerability (United Nations 2013; John & Barros 2015; Biderman et al. 2019).

The dwellings produced have low functionality. The minimal architectural program disregards the needs of the different family profiles of the residents (Villa et al. 2017). The small size of rooms makes it difficult to install traditional basic furniture (Palermo 2013; Pereira 2017). POE studies (Villa et al. 2017; Parreira 2020) have found this is exacerbated by the transformations and (informal) remodeling of the housing over time, demonstrating the lack of projected flexibility and adaptability and of the forecast of extensions. By providing low-quality housing for the low-income population, the PMCMV lowers the resilience of the built environment and shows a low capacity to respond to the impacts and changes expected during their life cycle. As a result, recent research indicates the increase in the social, physical, and environmental vulnerability of these projects (Parreira 2020; Garrefa et al. 2021).

2.2 Resilience assessment in social housing

On a global scale, resilience is a critical urban development agenda, such as the New Urban Agenda of Habitat III (2017)6 and Sustainable Development Goals—AGENDA 2030 (United Nations 2015).7 Resilience is a driving force in combating the vulnerable state provided by the rapid growth of the urban population, and other problems caused by inadequate urbanisation (Meerow & Newell 2019; IPCC 2021). Resilience is here defined as the ability of the built environment to absorb, adapt, and transform itself to deal with the impacts imposed over time (Pickett et al. 2014; Hassler & Kohler 2014; Rodin 2015; Garcia & Vale 2017).

The impacts derive from major events (referred to here as major causes) which impose changes in the current situation, e.g. climate change, energy crises, political instabilities, etc. These may result in potential threats that arise both as interruptions—in short time horizons—and in the form of diffuse and slow threats—for longer periods (Garcia & Vale 2017; Heeren et al. 2015). These impact buildings as negative effects, derived from the interaction between the impact, the state of vulnerability of the system, and its adaptive capabilities. One way to measure this impact is to measure the level of disturbance caused by their negative effects.

Vulnerability is defined as the sensitivity of the system (built environment) to specific impacts, combined with the adaptive capacity of the population. Thus, it becomes relevant to assess incidental threats and specific vulnerabilities, which may lead to adapting actions that increase the resilience of an urban system (Davoudi et al. 2009). Adaptive capacity is closely related to the concept of adaptation, referring to the ability to adjust the behavior and characteristics of a system increasing its capacity to cope with external impacts and stresses (Maguire & Cartwright 2008; Brooks 2003).

Thus, the assessment of resilience implies a need for a deep analysis: analysing it both qualitatively and quantitatively, overcoming a simple predetermined checklist, and identifying its systemic behavior in the face of impacts (Garcia & Vale 2017; Garrefa et al. 2021; Villa et al. 2022). The resilience assessment proposed here is based on building performance evaluation and POE.

The utility of POE in achieving quality in architectural design has been demonstrated by studies in both the Brazilian (Ono et al. 2018) and international contexts (Roaf 2004; Leaman et al. 2010; Preiser et al. 2018; Li et al. 2018). The close relationship between the measurement of human behavior and the quality of domestic environment has been a way of raising the satisfaction rates of residents and improving performance. This involves the collection of assessments that include techniques for the physical perception of the built environment, as well as the interaction between this environment and user behavior (Cole 2005; Mallory-Hill et al. 2012; Villa et al. 2019). In this way, systematised POE in social housing can feed planning policies and practices that can address residents’ needs.

3. Methods

3.1 Research instruments

A Resilient House Evaluation Matrix was designed to identify the robustness of a system and, consequently, its adaptability, aiming to reduce vulnerabilities and expand adaptability. The matrix presents attributes and indicators for the promotion of resilient social housing. The attributes and indicators are based on: (1) theoretical and conceptual research performed on resilience assessment systems; (2) the work of Arup (a consultancy), which developed a methodology for analysing urban resilience named the City Resilience Framework (CRI);8 (3) the research group’s previous evaluation experiences; and (4) observations of more resilient housing practices.

The study considered the ‘attributes’ of resilience in the context of Brazilian social housing: environmental comfort, environmental adequacy, flexibility, accessibility, wellbeing, and engagement (Villa et al. 2022). Indicators, on the other hand, are the physical elements or social practices considered important to enable homes and their users to defend themselves from impacts, making them more resilient. The key attributes are summarised in Table 1.

Table 1

System resilience assessment matrix (major causes, impacts, attributes, and indicators).


Urban climate, energy crises and accelerated urbanisation Strong rains Environmental comfort Hygrothermal comfort
Visual comfort
Acoustic comfort
Anthropometric comfort

Long periods of drought



Obstruction of openings by reforms

Strong winds

Acoustic problems

Ergonomic problems

Alterations in water supply Environmental adequacy Air

Alterations in energy supply

High water and energy costs

Presence of waste in green areas

Lack of vegetation

Low performance of building materials

PMCMV constructive model and incomplete application of PMCMV Variety of family profiles Flexibility Adaptability

Demands for work at home

Different ways of life

Need for house extensions

Lack of privacy of family members

Need for storage

Lack of adequate collective transportation Accessibility Mobility
Universal design
Access to social facilities
Access to infrastructure

Lack of universal design

Weak urban insertion

Lack of infrastructure

Lack of schools and cultural facilities

Lack of space for flourishing Wellbeing Take notice
Keep learning
Be active

Lack of space for interactions between residents

No privacy between residents and neighbors

Poor facilities to perform physical activities

Need for access to healthy food

No connectivity with the city

Lack of green spaces

Lack of schools and healthcare facilities

Feeling of belonging: ‘The own home dream’

No identity with the neighborhood

Socioeconomic factors Poor communication network Engagement Take part

Weak interaction between neighbors

Low active participation in local social entities

Low active participation in public activities

No awareness of local production



Notes: a RES_APO = Method of Analysis of the Resilience and Adaptability in Social Housing Complexes through Post-Occupancy Evaluation and Co-production.

PMCMV = Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida.

Sources: Bortoli (2018) and Villa et al. (2022).

Two objective POE tools were developed, and used by members of the research group since 2018. The Impact Assessment (IA) tool is a questionnaire that measures the level of disturbance to inhabitants caused by impacts on the houses, based on the residents’ awareness of the impacts, their frequency, and level of disturbance to residents, and the vulnerabilities are highlighted and the priorities for action established. Responses to questions regarding levels of disturbance were recorded as too much, too little, or not applicable. The option for a larger scale of discomfort measurement (e.g. from 0 to 5) was not chosen to avoid possible difficulties in understanding how to ‘measure’ one’s own perception. It was also clear that the respondents’ perception is guided by the negative effects that affect them, and not by the main causes. The main causes function more as an analysis tool for researchers than as a direct investigation of the residents’ perception.

In parallel, it is necessary to analyse the general performance of each attribute of resilience in view of an ideal configuration situation. The so-called ‘control cases’ define technical parameters to support the analysis of how near or how far is the case study in relation to an ideally resilient configuration.

3.2 Impact assessment (IA) tool

The home is subject to impacts of varied orders and, depending on its state of vulnerability at the time of occurrence, will absorb, adapt, and transform with greater or lesser ease, characterising its resilience. The term comprises the set of acute shocks and/or chronic stresses that threaten the lives, livelihoods, health, ecosystems, economies, cultures, services, and infrastructure of a society and built environment exposed, generating negative effects proportional to its state of vulnerability at a given time. Table 2 summarises the concepts involved in the idea of impact in the context of a social housing built environment.

Table 2

Definitions of impact.


Major causes Origin, motive, or reason for something to happen. It refers to major events elapsed in time and space that are part of life on Earth (Garcia & Vale 2017). They can be climatic, environmental, social, economic, and/or political e.g. climate change, population growth, scarcity of natural resources, energy crises, economic and political crises, etc.

Threatsa Acute shocks Sudden shocks, derived from acute events that threaten the analysed system (Arup & The Rockefeller Foundation 2015) e.g. earthquakes, heavy rains, floods, heatwaves, strong winds, disease outbreaks, terrorist attacks, etc.

Chronic stresses Slow disasters that weaken the cohesion of the analysed system (Arup & The Rockefeller Foundation 2015) e.g. housing shortages, school dropout, high unemployment rates, overloaded or inefficient public transportation system, endemic violence, chronic lack of food and water, absence of public policies, etc.

Negative effects Damage suffered or caused by something or someone (e.g. physical, moral, and/or property damage). Are negative consequences of the threats on goods and people, which generate pathologies in the built environment and weaken social and affective ties between residents, and between them and the built environment they occupy. Its extension derives from and amplifies the sensitivity/susceptibility of the built environment to threats, i.e. its vulnerability e.g. landslides, wear of building materials, high waste production, air, water and soil pollution, high consumption of resources, compromising of family income, depression, relationship difficulties, etc.

Note: a Threats refer to climatic, environmental, social, economic, and/or political phenomena that have occurred in the urban area and which are capable of impacting on the vulnerability of housing units.

Source: Adapted from Villa et al. (2019).

The impacts on the urban environment and its systems are primarily caused by major global events. These challenges, which governments and society go through, are defined here as major causes. From the common impacts observed in social housing in previous research, six major causes of impacts for investigation were inferred (Table 3).

Table 3

Definitions of the major causes.


Urban climate Product–producer of anthropic action on the natural environment is analysed at the urban scale. It is related to the perception of climate elements (radiation, ventilation, humidity, rain) and their repercussions in the context of the neighborhood covering differences between seasons

Energy crisis Fruit of the depletion of natural energy matrices, erratic nature of the climate (with climatic phenomena in periodicity and intensity becoming less predictable), and reduced investment in renewable sources. It is related to the perception of the repercussions on the supply, quality, and cost of energy and water

Accelerated urbanisation Implementation of allotments in the natural environment and the quality of green infrastructure (squares, parks, central, and lateral construction sites) resulting. It measures some effects of rapid urbanisation and densification of new areas without adequate planning and monitoring

PMCMV construction model Standard construction model for housing units under the Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida (PMCMV). It is related to the size, layout, material, and construction techniques used in the design of the standard project, and its impact on the lives of residents

Incomplete application of the PMCMV It is related to the incomplete application of all mandatory items (project, urban infrastructure, and social initiatives) when there is an implementation of a social housing development by the PMCMV. Its impact on the quality of the built environment and the lives of users is analysed here

Socioeconomic factors Socioeconomic conditions of existing residents, and what is the cause-and-effect relationship of these factors with the housing units and the PMCMV’s features

Source: Villa et al. (2022).

The IA tool was designed to collect residents’ perceived impacts, negative effects and level of disturbance, which explains the structure of the IA tool (Table 4). A questionnaire was provided to residents by means of a digital app.

Table 4

Structure of the impact tool questionnaire.



Change in power supply
Change in water supply
Increase in energy bills
Power supply interruptions
Increase in water bills
Interruption in water supply
Low quality of water
Too much or
Not applicable

Source: Villa et al. (2022).

The level of disturbance generated (too much, little, or not applicable—if nonexistent) was measured with 144 questions for each negative effect evaluated for the houses and another 140 for the apartment units.

3.3 Case studies: Sucesso Brasil and Oliva

The performance of the IA tool took place in two PMCMV developments (with residents from the lowest income bracket, i.e. household income 0–3 times the minimum wage) located in different sectors of the city of Uberlândia (MG). The city is characterised by a mild climate that alternates between a large hot and humid period (between October and April) and another cold and dry period (between May and September), with relative humidity in the range of 20% (Petrucci 2018; Bortoli 2018). Figure 1 locates the case studies in the city; Table 5 summarises the information that characterises the case studies: single-story houses at Successo Brasil Residential (RSB) and apartment units at Oliva Residential (RO).

Location of the case studies in Uberlândia/MG - Brazil
Figure 1 

Location of the case studies.

Sources: Villa et. al 2022 adapted from Parreira and Villa (2019).

Table 5

Case studies information.


Typology Single-story house Apartment

Allotment area (m2) 246,967.60 10,897.37

Number of housing units 141 housing units (138 regular, three accessible) 6 four-story buildings with 8 units per floor, totaling 192 housing units

Estimated population (for four residents/unit) 564 768

Needs program 2 bedrooms, 1 living plus dining room, 1 kitchen, 1 service area, 1 bathroom 2 bedrooms, 1 living plus dining room, 1 kitchen, 1 service area, 1 bathroom (always accessible)

Housing unit area (m2) Regular: 37.91
Accessible: 38.15

Income range 0–3 minimum wages 0–3 minimum wages

Constructive technique Self-supporting masonry Self-supporting masonry

Location/distance from the city center South Sector: 10 km Western Sector: 6.8 km

Delivery of houses 2010–11 2016

3.4 Sampling and performance

There were 333 housing units from which a statistically representative sample of the population of 162 questionnaires were returned (80 in the RSB and 82 in the RO). The impact evaluation tool was administered between May 2019 and March 2020 (Table 6). This occurred nine years after the completion of the RSB and three to four years after RO. Residents were personally recruited by properly identified researchers carrying the IA questionnaire on their mobile phones, and the questions were asked and responses directly recorded in a virtual database.

Table 6

Performance information.


Target population 141 houses 192 apartments

Sampling 80 houses 82 apartments

Performance period May–June 2019
August–September 2019
August–September 2019
January–March 2020

Margin of error 5.6%

Confidence level 94%

4. Analysis

Responses were analysed to identify the differences in the generation of impact and its residents’ perception in each development. The analysis addressed the following questions:

  • How does the lack of spatial adaptability influence the social behavior, and vice versa?
  • What is the need for adaptable living environments in Brazilian social housing?
  • What are the social and spatial costs of not providing adaptable housing in this scenario?
  • What evidence can POE provide about inhabitants’ needs, perceptions, and expectations for adaptable spaces?

The percentage of responses ‘too much’ and ‘too little’ was calculated (Table 7 and Figures 2, 3, 4). The response ‘not applicable’ was not considered. First, the high-impact responses for each cause were ranked on the intensity of the impact generated by the causes for each case study. This led to the formation of groups 1–3 for RSB and groups 1 and 2 for Córrego do Óleo Residential (RCO). This was then subjected to statistical analyses.9

Table 7

Ranking of causes by extreme responses.




Socioeconomic factors 29% Energy crisis 24%

Model PMCMV 36% Socioeconomic factors 24%

Energy crisis 37% Model PMCMV 25%

Incomplete application 27%



Incomplete application 49% Urban climate 38%

Accelerated urbanisation 57% Accelerated urbanisation 43%



Urban climate 78%

Note: PMCMV = Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida.

Source: Villa et. al 2022.

IA Tool - Ranking of negative effects in urban climate, energy crisis, and accelerated urbanisation
Figure 2 

Ranking of negative effects by cause: urban climate, energy crisis, and accelerated urbanisation.

Source: Villa et. al 2022.

IA Tool - Ranking of negative effects in construction and model of the Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida (PMCMV)
Figure 3 

Ranking of negative effects by cause: construction model of the Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida (PMCMV).

Source: Villa et. al 2022.

IA Tool - Ranking of negative effects in socioeconomic factors and incomplete application of the Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida (PMCMV)
Figure 4 

Ranking of negative effects by cause: socioeconomic factors and incomplete application of the Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida (PMCMV).

Source: Villa et. al 2022.

The responses to the impact evaluation tool questionnaire for these two cases were ranked in order to observe the causes and negative effects that generated the most extreme responses by residents.

5. Results

The complete results from the IA tool are shown in Figures 2, 3, 4, which cover all aspects evaluated in both developments.

The ‘too much’ response to the level of impact is here understood as an extreme response, indicating the need for priority attention.

The ‘within the group’ tests found no significant difference between major causes. The ‘between the groups’ tests showed there is a difference between major causes, allowing the analysis of those that have greater and lesser perception by the residents.

In both RSB and RO, the major causes ‘Urban Climate’, ‘Accelerated Urbanisation’, and ‘Incomplete Application of PMCMV’ caused the greatest impact on residents. A significant difference arises in the occurrence of extreme responses between the case studies, with very different values between causes that share the same ranking placement.

In the RSB, the percentage of responses considering the effects of the urban climate as too much is high, with an occurrence of 20% more in relation to the second most felt cause (Table 7). In the RO, accelerated urbanisation and urban climate occupy first and second places, respectively, as most felt causes, with a difference of just over 3% between them.

The occurrence of negative responses is higher in the RSB, single-story housing complex, indicating that this housing typology is more vulnerable to the impacts analysed than the vertical set. Among the residents interviewed in the RSB, 90% of dwellings underwent alterations, of which 65% were expansions. In the RO the same is not repeated due to being a set of apartments, with fewer adaptive opportunities.

Villa et. al 2022 showed that 58% of RSB residents carried out so-called ‘weekend reforms’ with their own labor or help from friends and family. The possibility of carrying out spatial alterations and expansions in the RSB (single-story set) meets, on the one hand, the need for improvement of the unit by residents. The permitted house alterations are listed in the owner’s manual, but very few of the residents were actually aware of its existence. However, many executed alterations were not permitted, which means losing the five-year warranty on the property. Therefore, the lack of a more effective owner’s manual and technical guidance (from an architect or structural engineer) led to new spatial situations often worse than the initial ones, contributing to the increasing dissatisfaction of the interviewees.

The decision to prioritise the ‘too much’ results comes from the need to assess the main impacts. Based on previous research and analysis, a wide range of negative impacts and effects that may have an impact on residents is listed. This also provided a verification of which effects actually impact residents.

5.1 Urban climate

When comparing RO and RSB, it was noted that low relative air humidity, deterioration of material, and need for an electric shower and air-conditioning were the topics that mainly disturbed residents (Table 8).

Table 8

Negative effects analysed.



Low relative air humidity 92% 40%

Detrition of materials (tiles, ceilings, walls, coatings, floor/paving) 84% 72%

Need to use an electric shower 83% 41%

Need for fan/air-conditioning 81% 49%

Smothering internal atmosphere 78% 39%

Source: Villa et al. (2022).

Regarding the results of negative effects for both sets, the main issues are related to the thermal discomfort caused by the dry season in the city, such as low relative humidity, hot temperatures and high level of dust, together with a deficiency in air and water tightness. The main issues of houses in the RSB are gaps between the roof tiles and the walls/beams that support them (Figure 5). Many residents reported that when heavy rains and/or winds occur, dust enters the dwelling. Expansion and contraction due to the high volume of air movement also causes cracking in tiles and ceiling, further compromising the building envelope.

Figures 5: Lack of watertight coverage and lining in Successo Brasil Residential (RSB) residences
Figure 5 

Lack of watertight coverage and lining in Successo Brasil Residential (RSB) residences.

Source: Bortoli (2018).

In the RSB, the installation of solar water heating systems failed to waterproof around the pipes penetrating the roof (Bortoli 2018). As a consequence, mold occurs in 75% of cases in the RSB and in 27% of cases in the RO. The perception of the stuffy air in rooms due to the heat and poor air circulation was very concerning in 79% in the RSB and 39% in the RO, resulting in a threat to the respiratory health of residents.

In addition, thermal aspects are also generators of disturbances. Since natural ventilation is the main strategy for dealing with thermal discomfort in these dwellings, maintaining the flow of wind through the vents is essential in both sets. In the hot period, the windows are simultaneously a source of relief and discomfort, admitting wind and whatever else comes with it into the interior of the residences. To overcome this situation, the demand for fans and/or air-conditioning is high: 74% of respondents in the RSB and 61% in the RO reported this issue. Consequently, the cost of water and electricity in the hot period is a significant impact experienced by respondents, with greater intensity in the RSB (81%) and lower in the RO (60%) (Morais 2021). As a consequence, energy debts affected 22 out of 33 houses analysed in the RSB (Bortoli 2018).

These results show that the standard layout for a PMCMV housing unit, and its low quality of materials and construction, contributed little or nothing to the improvement of environmental conditions in relation to the elements of the urban climate.

5.2 Fuel poverty

Fuel poverty provokes a range of negative effects (Figure 2). The increases in the costs of energy and water bills are discomforts greatly perceived in both RO and RSB, as listed in Table 9.

Table 9

Negative effects analysed.



Rising energy bills 77% 56%

Increase in water bills 57% 39%

High cost of water/electricity bills 80% 60%

Source: Villa et al. (2022).

It should be noted that in the RSB, houses have a solar water heating system that contributes significantly to the reduction of energy expenditures, which is approximately 80 kWh/month per household, or 20 kWh/person/month, considering an average of four inhabitants per household (Villa et al. 2017). The panels are always located to the north and west directions in order to capture as much energy as possible for the locality.

In both cases, the systems were found to heat the water sufficiently (Bortoli 2018). However, the volume of the solar water system (200 L) makes it necessary to ration the baths in families with more than four people or to use electricity for water heating which increases the costs of energy bills. This problem is more serious in the RSB as there are more occupants per household. A total of 74% of the RSB residents were very worried about their energy bills compared with 64% of RO residents.

5.3 Accelerated urbanisation

Accelerated urbanisation (Figure 2) refers to fast city growth, and whether the accompanying policies and urban design can keep pace (most of the time). This disconnect provokes a lack of quality in public areas, generating problems such as inadequate garbage disposal and lack of afforestation as visual pollution (Table 10).

Table 10

Negative effects analysed.



Garbage deposit in green areas/vacant lots/streets and sidewalks 86% 46%

Lack of afforestation 74% 56%

Visual pollution (excessive advertising, graffiti, garbage) 84% 41%

Source: Villa et al. (2022).

The absence of a place for the disposal of garbage leads to complications. A total of 79% of the RSB residents have seen neighbors throwing garbage and debris onto the street or into empty lots, while 57% disposed of garbage and/or larger debris into empty spaces. In addition, 51% store building materials for future renovations in their backyards, often discovered and exposed to the weather (Figures 6 and 7).

Figures 6: Deposition of garbage and debris in the institutional area of the Successo Brasil Residential (RSB)
Figure 6 

Deposition of garbage and debris in the institutional area of the Successo Brasil Residential (RSB).

Source: Bortoli (2018).

Lack of shade in the recreational area of the Oliva Residential (RO)
Figure 7 

Lack of shade in the recreational area of the Oliva Residential (RO).

Source: Bortoli (2018).

As a consequence, the deposition of garbage in green areas generates a negative environmental impact in 86% of cases in the RSB, against 46% in the RO. As shown in Figure 6, the main green public area in the RSB has not yet been properly designed, becoming a focus for the deposition of garbage and debris (Figures 8 and 9). The lack of a designated recycling spot (a voluntary site for taking rubble, large objects, tree cuttings, and recyclable waste) in the vicinity of the RSB is reported by the residents as an aggravating factor, as the incidence of building alterations is high.

Afforestation in the Oliva Residential (RO)
Figure 8 

Afforestation in the Oliva Residential (RO).

Source: Araújo (2020).

Afforestation in the Successo Brasil Residential (RSB) (highlighted in blue)
Figure 9 

Afforestation in the Successo Brasil Residential (RSB) (highlighted in blue).

Source: Morais (2021).

These and other questions make impaired aesthetics one of the most commonly perceived negative effects in the RSB, with 71% of respondents very concerned, while in the RO 37% are very concerned. In the RSB, 25% feel very concerned for not tending the public spaces of the neighborhood, while in the RO 32% feel uncomfortable not doing so, mainly due to the feeling of insecurity. This directly rebounds on important social costs for its residents, as community communication and engagement are key to achieve resilience. Collectively, residents might take charge in order to improve their public spaces; however, there is little to no sense of a real community bond, and the house problems surpass the collective issues, making it harder for changes to occur. This is deeply linked with how the development is implemented on-site.

5.4 PMCMV housing model

The rigid house layout prevents residents from easily adapting their spaces to their needs. From all the negative effects that come from the rigid housing model (Figure 3), the small size of the kitchen, poor quality of materials (problems with electrical, plumbing, or sewage installations), construction techniques (supporting walls that cannot be demolished/relocated), and lack of space for domestic activities are the most impactful items (Table 11).

Table 11

Negative effects analysed.



Small kitchen 82% 55%

Problems with electrical, plumbing, or sewage installations 75% 38%

Self-supporting wall; cannot be demolished and relocated 59% 37%

Lack of space to develop domestic activities 37% 52%

Note: PMCMV = Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida.

Source: Villa et al. (2022).

The reduced room size and construction techniques makes it difficult for inhabitants to alter the layout. This is even more evident in the apartments because there is no possibility of expansion. It is interesting to note that the size of the kitchen is the source of the biggest complaints (82% in the RSB and 55% in the RO): most of the renovations start with the expansion of the back of the house to create a new kitchen (Figure 10).

Back expansion for a new kitchen in social housing unit
Figure 10 

Back expansion for a new kitchen.

Sources: Araújo (2020); Morais (2021).

In the RSB the possibility of expansion exists by using the yard, but this often proves to be tight and precarious (Figure 11).

Actual furniture situation in social housing unit
Figure 11 

Actual furniture situation.

Sources: Araújo (2020); Morais (2021); with permission.

In the RO, the common spaces do not meet this demand, with no spatial and design quality, directly affecting the environmental adaptation in the immediate surroundings, weakening the network of communication and engagement. This to a lack of sense of belonging. It reflects how the residents find meaning in living there, having a sense of enthusiasm, inspiration, and pride in relation to the neighborhood.

5.5 Incomplete application of the PMCMV

The aspirations of the PMCMV are to ensure the prosperity of the housing developments (e.g. the establishment of squares, leisure areas, family support programs, and a communication and support network for residents and local leaders). However, this has not been found in these cases. The lack of public facilities and social support fails to connect residents with public health, education. and labor services. But this is often not done. A wide range of negative effects occurs (Figure 4). Unused spaces eventually become source of illicit activities (Table 12).

Table 12

Negative effects analysed.



Little relationship with neighborhood leaders 90% 18%

Absence of local services (lottery, banks, post office, etc.) 75% 7%

Development of illicit activities (e.g. drug use, trafficking, theft, etc.) 64% 62%

Note: PMCMV = Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida.

Source: Villa et al. (2022).

When it comes to the relationship between residents and local leaders, the answer differs. Due to the physical configuration of the apartments, grouped into buildings, there is a closer relationship between the residents and the building manager. In the RSB, 90% are bothered by the lack of contact with existing leaders and activities. This lack of infrastructure, quality in common areas, and, consequently, lack of socialisation do not allow for the emergence of spaces that promote shared responsibility and trust. This comes as a major social cost since underprivileged communities tend to become more isolated. With this, the adaptability in the face of changes becomes even harder, with no ties between residents/neighbors and with agents of the community.

5.6 Socioeconomic factors

Families living in PMCMV housing often have low income or come from socially and economically marginalised communities (Figure 4). This, associated with a house of poor quality, ineffective guidance in the owner’s manual, and lack of a relationship with leaders and policies, makes it even harder for residents to adapt in a positive way (Table 13).

Table 13

Negative effects analysed.



Difficulty raising money 74% 65%

Failure to carry out necessary repairs 67% 37%

Stopping alterations (due to lack of income) 54% 41%

Source: Villa et al. (2022).

The biggest problem found in these low-income families is the difficulty in saving money, which affects 74% of the residents of the RSB and 65% of the RO. This factor is aggravated by deficiencies and spatial problems found in the homes, which force these families to carry out urgent renovations and repairs, compromising the family budget, and, consequently, impacting the family’s dynamics and quality of life.

In the RSB, the perceived disturbance with renovations is greater, with 67% not undertaking necessary renovations and 54% interrupting renovations due to lack of income. Such disturbances are aggravated by the lack of adequate technical assistance, and generate further difficulties, compromising the ability to flourish.

Inhabitants’ greatest perceived disturbances are the consequences of a poor-quality project, which increasingly highlights the problems of climate, weather, urbanisation, security, space, and how this affects the social sphere of these communities. The impact evaluation tool identifies these issues and creates a shared narrative, where the analysis of researchers/technicians and the residents’ vision find a common place to start changes.

6. Conclusions

Post-occupancy evaluation (POE) was used in two case studies from the Brazilian social housing Programa Minha Casa Minha Vida (PMCMV). An impact evaluation tool collected information from residents. This diagnosed the level of disturbance caused by the main threats and their negative effects incident on these dwellings.

The resilience of the built environment depends on a balance between the opportunities for spatial adaptability provided by various flexible typologies and the social and demographic conditions of residents. Several issues were found to harm the adaptive processes of these communities:

  • Low quality of materials and construction that lead to environmental discomfort and ill-health
  • Inappropriate house layout that hinders expansion
  • Inadequate quality of public spaces
  • Site implementation that does not account for the need for work opportunities

The findings can be used to modify the mass production of housing by highlighting the role of users’ expectations and needs. This information can be used by architects, urban planners, and the communities to solve the problems experienced by social housing users while improving their resilience against changes, especially when considering adaptation to climate, economic, and changing family circumstances. The following recommendations arise from the results of this study. Scholars, architects, and urban planners can use the perspective from the residents’ point of view provided by the tool (1) to provide better and more effective technical assistance in these existing scenarios—to accommodate different functions and practices; (2) to produce an improved owner’s manual—that can even encourage the people/community (individually or collectively) to organise and take action; and (3) to change the physical form—revise the project guidelines to offer future homes that can adapt to changes more easily.

Processes such as POE can inform architects, engineers, designers, and planners in the production of more adaptable and resilient dwellings, especially in scenarios of intervention and renovations during use. It is clear what really impacts the residents. Change is needed in the Brazilian social housing system in order to achieve adaptability and resilience.


1Approximately €42.7 billion. In 2020, the program was renamed Casa Verde e Amarela as a result of the presidential change in the country, without essentially making changes in its conception and structure (see 

2The Brazilian minimum wage per month in February 2022 was R$1100.00, or €194.02 (22 February 2022 exchange rate). 

3€13.9–46.90 (in February 2022). 

4Source: User’s manual provided by a PMCMV construction company located in the city of Uberlândia (MG). 

5Many alterations are not allowed, which means losing the five-year warranty on the property. The possible changes are listed in the owner’s manual, but very few residents are actually aware of its existence. 

9For details, see the full research report at 


The authors thank the CNPq (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development), CAPES (Higher Education Personnel Improvement Coordination), FAPEMIG (Research Support Foundation of the State of Minas Gerais) and PROGRAD/UFU (Pro-Rectory of Research and Graduate Studies of the Federal University of Uberlândia) for supporting this study.

Author contributions

S.B.V. coordinated the production and contributed to drafting the work, revising it critically for important intellectual content; P.B.V. made substantial contributions to the methodology and result analysis; K.C.R.B. made substantial contributions to the conception of the work and result analysis; and L.B.A. made substantial contributions to the statistical analysis.

Competing interests

The authors have no competing interests to declare.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are openly available at

Ethical approval

The impact tool was duly submitted to ethical assessment by the Federal University of Uberlândia’s Ethics Committee and was approved under CAAE (Certificate of Presentation of Ethical Appreciation) number 56716422.4.0000.5152.


Project funded by the CNPQ (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development), Research Productivity Scholarship (Level 2) developed from 1 April 2019 to 31 April 2022.


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