In recent years the Brazilian city of Natal has been steadily growing in importance in the north-east of the country. In fact this coastal city whose name means Christmas has over a million people (over 1.3 million in the wider metro area) and is becoming better and better known, not just throughout the country but among people abroad too. Natal is not only the largest city in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, it’s also the capital and for both reasons tends to dominate the north eastern ‘bump’ of the country jutting out into the Atlantic.

The minha casa minha vida (my house my life) social housing programme has featured prominently in the area thanks to the Anglo-Brazilian property giant EcoHouse Group who have offices in the city and have build a number of social housing developments in the area over the past couple of years. This far eastern location within Brazil means that Natal is the closest major city to both Africa and Europe, a fact that has a major impact on (for instance) the regional and national tourism industry.

This is an important source of income for the area This activity is comparatively recent, at least on any real scale, and only got off the ground really about thirty years ago. In the area of Natal proper, the relatively short (10Km) but vital ‘Via Costeira’ (in English ‘Coastal Highway) has been very important in boosting easy communications near the city. Not only are there many excellent and popular beaches in the district but no less than ten major golf courses are in the process of being built within reach of the city. Investment in the Natal area is enormous, targeted on infrastructure and building projects. Last year over eight percent of all inward foreign investment to Brazil was directed to Natal.

Nowadays this route is where one can find all the main hotels of the area, serving famous tourist destinations such as the largest cashew-nut tree in the world, the Forte dos Reis Magos and of course the beautiful clear waters of Maracajua. There are also the imported dromedaries on the coastal sand dunes and last but not least the famous off-season carnival, the so-called Carnatal.

As one of the host cities for the 2014 FIFA World Cup later this year, good communications with the wider world are of course essential. The Augusto Severo International Airport provides good links, both to many other parts of Brazil and also of course to a number of overseas cities.

Directly or indirectly the economy of Natal is heavily dependent on tourism and related ‘visitor’ activities. But other significant concerns exist too, there are more than a dozen university-level education centres, there is also an important regional HQ for the oil industry and of course the specialist fishing concerns.

Find out more about Brazil’s Minha Casa Minha Vida social housing programme and how investors are making it big through these free resources,