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Weaponizing Social Housing in Medellín and Rio de Janeiro


State-subsidized housing programs have improved the livelihood of low-income populations in Latin American cities for decades. Once inhabited, however, they do not succeed in guaranteeing these populations’ safety. When residents are rehoused from informal settlements controlled by organized criminal groups, these groups sustain influence in formalized housing complexes. What is more, new dynamics such as housing financialization increase residents’ exposure to criminal actors. This project explores such ‘weaponization’ of social housing by comparing governance arrangements between state, market and criminal actors in formal social housing condominiums to those in informal settlements. Utilizing a two-by-two ethnographic comparison, based on case studies of one informal settlement and one condominium in both Rio de Janeiro and Medellín, the project will investigate 1) how state actors redefine social housing in terms of governmental influence and private property logics; 2) how gangs and militias gain and exert control over infrastructure and (protective) services; 3) how residents protect themselves against diverse, gendered forms of violence. The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University (HU), with its renowned interdisciplinary expertise in urban governance, crime and planning provides an ideal training context for fieldwork activities and supervision (Prof Davis) of the project’s theoretical development. By bringing the Latin American perspective on the relationship between crime and housing into direct conversation with HU’s and the University of Amsterdam's research in North America and Europe, this project develops a transferable approach to urban sovereignty in the global North and South as decisive step towards an ERC Starting Grant proposal. Through dissemination of the gained knowledge, the project will bridge policy expertise between housing and crime, and support local advocacy groups’ interaction with authorities.

Call for proposal

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Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-GF - Global Fellowships


Spui 21
1012WX Amsterdam
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 253 052,16

Partners (1)

United States
Massachusetts Avenue 1350
02138 Cambridge
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments