SEATTLE — Matheus Cardoso remembers when the water broke into his house in one of the worst floods in Jardim Pantanal, the impoverished community in East São Paulo where he grew up. He was seven years old. This event awakened in Cardoso the wish to transform Brazil’s living conditions, starting in his own neighborhood.
Ten years later, he was accepted to a civil engineering program and received a scholarship at Mackenzie Presbyterian University, one of the best universities in São Paulo. In 2014, when he was a 19-year-old college student, Cardoso decided to renovate his mother’s house. This led to him creating Moradigna, a company that provides fast and affordable housing renovations with a focus on improving Brazil’s living conditions, as well as preventing unhealthy factors such as moisture, mold, lack of ventilation and poor lighting.
To solve these problems that affect millions of people in Brazilian favelas, Moradigna launched the Express Reform package. The service includes construction material, skilled labor and project management and takes an average of five days to be completed.
Not only do Moradigna’s renovations transform Brazilian housing, they also significantly improve residents’ health. Cardoso remembers one specific renovation, requested by a housewife who had a baby girl with severe pneumonia. “After we renovated her bedroom, she thanked us a lot. The baby no longer had pneumonia,” he said in an interview with The Borgen Project. “At that time, the impact we have on people’s health became very clear to me.”
In addition to improving Brazil’s living conditions, Moradigna creates jobs by hiring construction workers from the community. “This is extremely important because it empowers the community’s local economy and generates income for everybody,” Cardoso said.
The use of a local workforce also allows the company to charge less for housing renovations. Each makeover costs nearly $1,200. In 2017, Moradigna earned $300,000, all of which was reinvested in the business.
Besides the renovations, Moradigna also offers a package called Regularize Now, which provides regularization of properties’ documentation. Both services have flexible payment schemes that allow the client to pay the amount in up to 10 installments, with zero interest. This is possible due to partnerships Moradigna has formed with different construction material suppliers.
So far, Moradigna has completed 350 housing renovations, impacting 1,500 people. It has also gained the support of big players in both the business and nonprofit worlds. In 2015, the company partnered with Yunus Social Business, one of the world’s largest nonprofit venture funds for social businesses. Last year, Cardoso, together with his partners, the architect Vivian Sória and the accountant Rafael Veiga, participated in the TV show Shark Tank Brazil, where they received a $90,000 loan to expand their services.
Cardoso dreams big and wants to accomplish a lot more so that many other people can escape unhealthy living conditions, just like he did in 2014. “Our plan is to start expanding the company next year,” he said. “My biggest dream is that Moradigna impacts all 40 million people living in these conditions in Brazil.”
– Júlia Ledur