Public policies are produced by connections between several actors, within institutional environments and crossing organizational boundaries, but detailed analyses of the environments in which politics occur are relatively rare in Brazil. I believe the concept of governance could help to bridge this gap. However, this concept has different meanings and has been circulated in Latin America with quite confusing and cacophonic meanings. In this analytical essay, I build a definition of governance based both on local debates and the recent international literature, which can be of use to study urban policies in Brazil, going beyond government but specifying the elements under investigation. The article starts by critically discussing the uses of the concept of governance in Latin America and especially in Brazil, highlighting some of the most important problems of the existing analyses, so as to forge an alternate operational definition. I then discuss the most relevant political actors present in Brazilian urban policies and later use these elements to discuss the governance of policies regarding the production of the built environment.