During the 70's, Brazil National Agency for Housing (BNH) chef a program inducing large schemes of public housing estates. Most of the projects, due to their size, were only viable in large peripheral areas, far from the city centre. The housing estates were built according to the precepts of the modern movement, (free blocks, zoning, separation of movements). These housing estates have been associated with social segregation, lack of services, and violence among others problems. This article presents the recent transformation of this urban typology. It describes the processes that took place in a public housing estates implanted in the decade of 70, in Recife, a capital in northeastern Brazil. This study of 100 apartments aims to identify the nature of the modifications made by the residents, as well as understanding the socio-cultural logic behind this process. These areas were planned essentially as residential neighbourhoods, lacking any reference of urban life and the complexity of activities related to urban living. These spaces were transformed by the dwellers, which created conditions for the installation of mixed activities and to promote the sustainability in this outlying life. The article exemplifies these transformations, identifying the urban conception of the transformed area, and the processes of changes in the dwellings as well as the public spaces. The apartments in four store buildings suffered several reforms since the changing of materials, windows frames, internal redistribution of rooms and mainly extensions that nearly doubled the available area. The seek more space, and open view to the streets. There is a consistent aim to transform flats into houses by ignoring the collective entrance to the building and opening doors direct to the street level, even in the upper floors. The houses turn inside out, bringing all the social rooms to the external spaces. Terraces guarantee the visual control of the nearby spaces. Even so, the pattern of domestic activities in the houses is very restricted to family life, all social interactions happens in the outside space, in convex spaces among the buildings. Different blocks present also different morphological arrangements of their surrounding spaces. Some are very livelily, others barely present movement of people. Space syntax analysis helps to show how the house extensions determine urban places and patterns of use. The study analysed 100 apartments plans with the rooms transformations and furniture arrangement. The spatial propierties of new transformed houses were analysed as convex spaces dwelling different uses and having properties such as integration, depth and different degrees of visual permeability. Results show that inhabitants tried to transform apartments into houses, replicating internally a house layout. The opening of external doors (at all floors) and the closure of the internal door to communal areas and stairs brings the idea that they live in an individual dwelling. Lessons learned show that popular houses in Brazil where poor population have a little mobility and condition to move, should offer flexibility to adapt to family life cycles. There are also implication for urban spaces that should try to recreate a neighbourly environment, with windows and doors opening to public space.