The paper aims to provide an account of contemporary housing social movements in the downtown area of São Paolo, with a specific focus on civic struggles during the 2014 World Cup event. Authors believe that the study of grass-root social activism in the city of São Paolo offers a privileged standpoint to analyze the dynamic of interaction between urban mobilization and the state in democratic Brazil. This is particularly relevant when it comes to the last decade, characterized by the rise to power of the Partido dos Trabalhadores, a socialist party that originated in the same socio-political milieu of urban movements but has, however, maintained an ambivalent attitude towards them. The first part of the article tracks the rise and development of housing social movements in São Paolo, from the early 1980s to the 2000s, highlighting the dialectic of integration and opposition between civic actors and the state. The second part focuses on the most recent years, showing how the cultural and political repertoire accumulated by the urban movements played out during the revolts of June 2013 and the World Cup protests of 2014.