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Contact: Katie Judd
+55 (21) 9197-6444 

Housing Secretary Jorge Bittar to Present Relocation Proposal to Vila Autódromo Community Sunday 
Community rumored to be evicted and relocated; Bittar to present proposal and receive community reactions 

October 14, 2011, RIO DE JANEIRO—Municipal Housing Secretary Jorge Bittar plans to present a relocation proposal to community residents of Vila Autódromo this Sunday, October 16, at 10 A.M. He will also remain present to hear residents’ responses following the proposal. 

Bittar’s scheduled proposal comes a week after Rio's largest daily O Globo published that the community was to be demolished by 2013 as part of the Olympic Park development project. The next day São Paulo's Estadão published that the area to which residents will be relocated was purchased for R$19.9 million from one of Mayor Paes' campaign donors. O Globo also reported that community residents were to be offered relocation housing in Carioca Residential Park, a new housing development. Rio's social movements responded that the community remained in place in the recently-completed Olympic Master Plan and that, rather, it is in order to satisfy real estate interests that the Mayor has issued a release to evict the community. Residents pointed out that the case was still in court and nothing, as yet, has been decided.

“We’ve seen the same thing before. A flashy government project that we’re told won’t cost a thing, but then people move, they’re [stuck with] maintenance costs they can’t afford and are forced to stay for nine years before they can sell. All this for a project in which we didn’t have any say in designing. [City officials] designed the project, and bought the land...unilaterally, without our involvement...They tell federal authorities and international human rights groups we have agreed to their plans. But we haven’t...We are committed to staying in our [existing] neighborhood,” said Jane Nascimento, a community organizer and long-time resident of Vila Autódromo. 

Vila Autódromo first began in the early 1970s as a community of fishermen, and grew as workers were brought in to build the city's racetrack, and as residents from nearby areas in the West Zone were evicted. It is not controlled by drug traffickers or militia, and has a history of peaceful coexistence with nearby events, ranging from the Formula 1 to Rock in Rio. O Globo mentioned Vila Autódromo is dear to the city's social movements, who see the site as a symbol of resistance against evictions across the city.

“A lot more is at stake here than may appear. This community has title, they have built a strong sense of community and most of the housing stock is of quality. They have taken advantage of the boom in this region over the past decades to improve their lives, and residents often comment about the quality of life they have here. This is not a slum or shantytown. It is simply a legally-entitled neighborhood which the city has never bothered to serve. It would be much more creative and interesting, even for the Olympic Games, if the City used Vila Autódromo to set a precedent of integrating favelas into the city,” said Theresa Williamson, Founder and Executive Director of Catalytic Communities.

Representatives from Catalytic Communities, public defenders, members of neighboring communities also facing eviction, as well as community organizers from Vila Autódromo will be available for interviews in Portuguese and English at the proposal session Sunday morning. The session will be held on the field behind the Vila Autódromo Neighborhood Association. See map or contact us for directions. Photos and b-roll also available upon request.

About Catalytic Communities 
Catalytic Communities is an NGO based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Our mission is to integrate low-income communities into the wider society using online and offline networking forums and communication tools. We work to empower Rio’s communities to make strategic use of social media. For current updates on the Olympic redevelopment projects, visit our community news site, Rio Olympic Neighborhood Watch. For more information on visits and interviews with community leaders in Rio, contact Mary Allison Joseph. Follow Catalytic Communities on Facebook and Twitter