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Brazil: Social Housing Programme mandates Solar Water Heaters

Submitted by Baerbel Epp on November 10, 2010

All new houses built within the framework of “My Home My Life” (Minha Casa Minha Vida), a Brazilian housing programme for families with an income of a maximum of three times the minimum wage in the South, Southeast and Midwest region, will have to be equipped with solar water heaters. The regulation was announced by Inês Magalhães, the National Secretary of Housing, on 5 November in a news article on the Ecodebate website. The mandate will come into force at the beginning of 2011, during the second phase of the housing programme.

"With the solar programme, we aim at more than just energy conservation,” Magalhães explained at Ecodebate. “The installation of a solar water heater also contributes to the economic sustainability of a household by reducing the cost of energy and educating families who must use water and energy sparingly.”

In the first phase of the My Home My Life programme, which ends at the end of this year, the use of solar collectors has not been mandatory and only a small number of businesses installed solar energy. It is estimated that no more than 40,000 households have benefited from a solar water heater until end of October this year. In comparison: The Federal Housing Bank CAIXA counted a total of 355,358 housing units contracted through the federal housing programme by early September.

The second phase of the housing programme foresees the construction of 2 million new homes, of which 1.2 million are going to be reserved for low-income families. As a result of the regulations mentioned above, between 300,000 and 400,000 houses will then be equipped with a solar water heater next year.

With the same goal of ensuring efficiency of resources, the Ministry of Cities also intends to encourage the reuse of water in these homes. However, the Secretary of Housing explained that initially, a water reuse system had not been an actual requirement.
The My Home My Life programme was launched in March 2009. Two different family categories can benefit from it: The ones with 0 to 3 minimum wages in cities with over 100,000 inhabitants receive subsidies for constructing the house, setting the monthly repayment rate to around BRL 10 per month, or at least BRL 50 annually over ten years. The second category includes families with incomes of 3 to 6 minimum wages, whom the programme offers low-interest loans, limiting their repayment rate to no more than 20 % of the monthly income.

This text was written by Carlos Faria Café, head of the Brazilian consultancy SE-Studio Equinócio – Marca Solar Group: cafe@studioequinocio.com.br.

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