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Regularization of illegally invaded urban areas

To dissolve urban land conflicts and to provide access to land titles to people that face high levels of social/environmental vulnerability

Photo of Denis Nakahara
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The intense process of urbanization that has occurred in Brazil in the last three decades has not been accompanied by compatible public policies, and the supply and production of affordable housing has not been sufficient to meet the demand of the low-income population. As a result, families began to occupy empty public and privately-owned land, often in areas of high risk or environmental preservation. This dynamic has not only led to disordered growth but also generated conflicts and exacerbated social inequalities and environmental problems. Without regular land title, families faced with the constant threat of eviction. Currently, there are approximately 12-18M people in this situation in Brazil. Terra Nova is a social enterprise and the only company specialized in providing support services for the regularization of illegally invaded urban areas, aiming to dissolve the conflicts between landowners and occupants. In a nutshell, the model consists of (i) identification of potentially regularizing areas, (ii) judicial agreements in which step high attention is paid to community engagement and preparedness and (iii) project implementation/maintenance. Terra Nova’s approach to dispute resolution not only produces solid positive social/environmental impact, but has also proven more efficient and cost-effective than the existing government-run processes.


Terra Nova has already assisted approx. 6,5k families and it aims to reach 36k until 2022 (throughout Brazil). The primary benefit for families assisted by Terra Nova is the legal approval for land title acquisition, but Terra Nova´s work also includes infrastructure improvements and relocation of families living in legal reserves and/or areas of high risks related to climate events (e.g. flood, mudslide etc) to secure areas.


By regularizing invaded urban areas, Terra Nova (i) protects the environment (e.g. preservation of legal reserves areas, implementation of sewage/drainage network), (ii) reduces the risks related to climate events (e.g. floods, mudslides, collapsing etc) and (iii) promotes better use of natural resources (e.g. energy and water). The innovative model Terra Nova developed is based on the assumption that the wealth and resources to get the problem solved lies in the communities themselves – if properly organized. The framework relies on a peaceful multi-stakeholder negotiation and an innovative legal structure that brings together community associations, the private sector and government agencies. Therefore, Terra Nova methodology (i) considers a systemic approach, (ii) includes all parties in the process and (iii) not only maximizes the resources available, but also leverages hidden assets within the community. Terra Nova’s ecosystem stakeholders includes: Ministry of Cities, National Justice Council, city halls, NGOs, government agencies, state justice councils, public prosecutors of housing and property issues.


  • Yes, for two or more years


  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years


  • I'm not sure

Attachments (1)

Terra Nova Impact at a Glance.pdf

Terra Nova Social Impact at a Glance


Join the conversation:

Photo of Isaac Njlah Konfor

Part of the solution can be resettling people from the slum community in safer areas of the town.

Photo of Catherine Allinson Future Earth Ltd

Essential work - I hope your project is funded.

Photo of Chioma Ume

Hi Denis, thanks for sharing your idea! Do you work for Terra Nova? I see that you've been implementing in Brazil, which is awesome, and wanted to share with you the eligible countries for this challenge, that you can take a look at here:
Do you have partners in any of these countries where this idea might be implemented?

Photo of Denis Nakahara

Hi Chioma, I work at MOV Investimentos - an impact investing fund manager - and we´ve invested in Terra Nova.
Currently, Terra Nova is focused on Brazil but we believe its metholodoly can be implemented in other countries as well through a franchise model. In fact, Terra Nova work has been awarded international recognition such as RENÉ FRANK Habitat Award and the World Habitat Award.

Photo of Chioma Ume

Hi Denis,
Thanks for clarifying! Congratulations on the award! I think it's great that this might be applicable to other countries and hope this idea continues to flourish. Have any steps been taken towards the creation of the franchise model you mention?

Photo of Denis Nakahara

Hi Chioma,
Yes. Currently, a social franchise model is under evaluation by the company. Besides that, Andre Albuquerque (founder of Terra Nova) was selected as a Ashoka Fellow and he was selected to participate in the Globalizer program last year and he had the opportunity to present Terra Nova model in the 2014 Bogota Summit (
You can also learn more about Terra Nova on its website ( However, it´s only in Portuguese.

Photo of Chioma Ume

That's really exciting. Are you submitting this idea on behalf of Terra Nova, or as inspiration for our broader community?

Photo of Denis Nakahara

On behalf of Terra Nova