According to my interviews with homeless activists, the squatters choose buildings that have laid empty for many years and whose owners owe significant back fines. That makes it more likely the city can seize the property.
They also targeted empty government buildings – especially those owned by the federal government – because they find that it makes negotiations easier.
Occasionally, squatters manage to stay put. The film “Leva” tells the history of the Mauá squat, one of São Paulo’s rare long-standing occupations.
Currently, an average of 70 buildings in downtown São Paulo are occupied on any given day, though reliable data is scarce. The Roofless Workers Movement reports that 40,000 families in six states are currently on its waiting list.
A 2008 documentary paints a lovely portrait of the homeless movement, focusing on four female squatters about to move into their new temporary home. It’s called “Dia de Festa” – “party day.” That’s what squatters call it every time they annex and occupy a new building.