The term governance has recently been used to address the interactions of not only governments and state agencies but also those between governments and non governamental organizations and communities and social groups in cities. Operationally, it aims at being a useful approach ill the assessment of changes in the roles of agents interested in the implementation of urban policies in developing countries. In such contexts, the actors involved _ local officials, public and private developers, and users of public and private hosing developments _ are grouped in different levels of organisation; their roles could be roughly described as being basically associated with the design and maintenance of settlements as integral parts of the whole city. The paper aims to situate the changes in housing policies in Brazil following the end of the military government in the 1980s within the scope of the existing alterations of legislative instruments, such as masterplanning and zoning ordinances, and other more morphologically based ones such as the cadastre used in property taxation system. These alterations have been emphasised in the so called urban reform to be not only instruments for physical adjustment, but also to the urban form have a social as well as economic function. Controversies in the stages of implementation of urban instruments arise in the adaptations of former administrative structures and the inclusion of users' perspectives in the process and the notion that settlements have physical repercussion in the long-term sustainability of the urban environment. The research takes housing schemes located on the city periphery and confronts them with the nature of zoning practices, and with the social appropriation conducted by users and local officials in order to integrate such developments within the overall structure of the city. The main objective of the discussion is to show how changes in the roles of agents are associated with changes ill the instruments used for urban administration ill a context of rapid urbanisation. It is also meaningful to reflect on the repercussions of the changes in urban occupation n the peripheries with the changes in attitudes of users within the process of democratisation taking place in Brazilian cities in the 1990s.