As a recipient of the Thinker Summer Research grant from the Center of Latin American Studies and the Global Metropolitan Studies Pre-dissertation Fieldwork grant, I went to São Paulo, Brazil. My idea was to interview par9cipants of the largest homeownership program ever implemented in the country: the Minha Casa Minha Vida (MCMV, My House My Life). My goal was to investigate the ability of MCMV beneficiaries to capitalize on the formal homeownership offered by the program and explore how mortgage debt has affected their socioeconomic status.
I went to the field with one hypothesis in mind: MCMV households are wealthier but poorer. Families are wealthier because now they own a home, they have an asset that they can rely on and extract income from on rainy days, but they are also poorer once there are new costs that emerge from owning a formal home. Low-income families, who move from an informal to a formal housing unit, face an array of new expenses that they were not used to, such as electricity, gas, water, condominium fees, property taxes, or the mortgage itself. Out of these new costs, I was initially interested in a particular one: the mortgage debt. A sub-hypothesis was that the monthly mortgage payments those families had to endure once they moved to the new unit would be the heaviest on their budget. During my preliminary investigation, I partially validated these hypotheses and developed a more nuanced understanding of these ques9ons.