Working Papers
PDF | Free | 58 pages
Download PDF

The Statute of the Metropolis and Planning Reform in Brazil

Analyzing Land Use Planning Practices and Metropolitan Land Conflicts

Abigail Friendly and Felipe Francisco De Souza

July 2021, English

In 2015, Brazil enacted the Statute of the Metropolis (Federal Law No. 13,089) to regulate the establishment of metropolitan areas and regional public policies throughout the country. This research comparatively analyzes land use planning practices in metropolitan areas — Baixada Santista and Vale do Rio Cuiabá — before and after the enactment of the Statute. Based on historical institutionalism and legislative clustergrams, the research aims to understand whether the adoption of the Statute of the Metropolis has influenced or changed land use planning practices focusing on metropolitan land conflicts. The results of this study are expressed through two divergent processes, as the areas selected herein entailed different metropolitan contexts and strategies. While Baixada Santista has years of experience with metropolitan governance, the promise that certain provisions of the Statute of the Metropolis might lead to greater technical advances, more consistent proposals for solutions to metropolitan land conflicts, and restrictions to the interests of the unbridled real estate market, was not fulfilled in this case. The analysis of municipal master plans in the metropolitan area of Baixada Santista before and after the Statute’s enactment demonstrates that post-2015 municipal master plans saw an increase in density, with more content, but almost the same metropolitan-related content as before 2015. By contrast, the metropolitan area of Vale do Rio Cuiabá has a very short history of metropolitan governance, yet over the past few years it has advanced considerably during the development of its metropolitan plan to incorporate the tenets of the Statute of the Metropolis. However, termination, in early 2019, of the metropolitan agency of Vale do Rio Cuiabá has made it hard to recognize whether its metropolitan plan will be folded into future municipal master plans.

Despite the promise that 2015 would establish a legacy that favored a culture of planning in Brazil, critical decisions made later limited any possibility of positive feedback — or self-reinforcement — of metropolitan governance in the country, including federal legislation in 2018 altering the content of the Statute of the Metropolis and state actions weakening or terminating metropolitan agencies in 2019. These events signal the rise of a more neoliberal vision of a minimal state in Brazil, and the loss of many of the institutional and technical achievements in metropolitan areas since the 1990s. Beyond the promise of the Statute of the Metropolis, this research offers an analytical model for monitoring and assessment of future metropolitan efforts over time. It became clear, though, that the original scope and promise of the analytical framework require more time to be effective. More time is needed for more municipal master plans enacted after 2015 in different metropolitan areas to fully embrace the theory on historical institutionalism. However, this study serves as an alert for processes to come that variables sensitive to metropolitan planning may not be effective, or may not continue, due to various factors. The main goals of the research were to understand the limitations of implementing the Statute of the Metropolis, and to highlight possible outcomes in upcoming metropolitan planning processes in Brazil.


Land Law, Land Reform, Land Use Planning, Legal Issues