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Housing issues in Haiti

A bit more than 3 years after the devastating 2010 January 12’s earthquake, the housing situation in Haiti is today a very popular topic.

Foreign journalists were probably the first ones pinpointing the quite slow progress regarding the re-lodging of the victims of the quake.

3 years later the government of Haiti published statistics stating that 79% of the people that were living in camps has been re-lodged.

If it difficult to confirm these data it is quite easy in the other hand to list the numerous difficulties the government of Haiti and NGOs had to face while tackling the issue.

To start with, all actors involved in construction or reconstruction had to deal with logistics and space. As a matter of fact terrorized people had built spontaneous camps on public squares, football fields and roundabout. Even on the golf course in wealthy neighbourhood of Petion Ville!

With an enormous amount of debris to remove (1000 trucks working 24/7 during 1000 days was one of the first estimation of the needs) and no space available, the task was serious.

Another big issue was (and still is) the re-localization of these hundreds of thousands of people.

There is not much work in Haiti and Port au Prince is already overcrowded with around 2 million of inhabitants (and is expected to reach 6 million by 2030). The only location to re-localize all these people was on the northern edge of the city, a remote area with absolutely no shade, no water nor public transport and of course nor work…

Understandably reluctant to move out of the city most of the IDP (internal displaced people) refused this option.

When most debris had been removed another serious issue regarding ownership of land appeared. In Haiti 90% of the land is owned by less than 10% of the population so many IDPs, simple renters, couldn’t benefit from a temporary shelter (T-shelters) in the first place as the risk of seeing the owners taking over the newly built shelters to rent them was extremely high.

The concept of temporary shelter also brought some difficulties and misunderstandings.

While the “humanitarian emergency world” defines a T-shelter as a temporary construction of 15 square meters able to host IDPs for at least 3 years and costing less than 1500US Dollars, many Haitians thought INGOs will build proper solid houses, somehow replacing fully what had been destroyed by the earthquake.

For all those that were living in shacks before the earthquake in the other hand no deception as a simple T-shelter made of plywood and covered with CGI sheets was still better than their previous place. But electricity, running clean water and jobs are still missing.

With a population growing that fast, the housing crisis Haiti is facing is unfortunately far from disappearing.

May 2, 2013 in Haiti |