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Haiti must act to address housing crisis - Oxfam

Source: Thu, 16 May 2013 12:29 GMT
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In this April 2013 file photo, a view of Shelter Camp 3 that houses Haitians made homeless by the 2010 earthquake, one of 385 informal 'tent cities' still existing since the disaster, as a wall is being built by the owners of the land, in the Delmas suburb of Port-au-Prince. REUTERS/Marie Arago
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By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Haitian government needs to address a severe shortage of affordable housing in the Caribbean nation where three years after a massive earthquake, little progress has been made to tackle the problem, international charity Oxfam has said.

The housing sector was hard hit by the 2010 earthquake, with losses and damages totalling $3 billion and the demand for housing increasing from 300,000 to 500,000 homes after the quake, Oxfam said in its May report. Over 200,000 people died in the disaster.

Efforts to build the new homes needed have been hampered by Haiti’s weak institutions and leadership, poor coordination, lack of funds for private sector building firms, land tenure problems, and little land being under state control.

“The state of Haiti’s housing is disastrous, the need for change is urgent, and the scale of required change is massive. This is not a time for caution,” the report said.  

“Act as if Haiti has a national crisis, because it does.  No longer can anyone claim that the disruption in Haiti's cities is simply an aftermath of the earthquake,” it added.

The government should create a new housing ministry with a national policy to deal with the severe shortage of affordable homes, the report said, citing the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince as the place where the housing crisis was the most acute.

Numerous government ministries and entities are involved in Haiti’s housing sector making it difficult to coordinate and implement the building of new homes, issue building permits and sort out land titles. This created an off-putting business climate for local and foreign private investors, it said.

“A favourable climate must be created to encourage the private sector to take commercial risks, whilst the government must take on the non-commercial risks. The private sector must provide quality products and services that are affordable to the poorest Haitians,” Yolette Etienne, Oxfam’s associate country director in Haiti, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Haiti's situation is even more challenging than the typical emerging nation, firstly because of the 2010 earthquake, and secondly because, even before the earthquake, Haiti's housing system was not working for most Haitians,” she added.

TENT SETTLEMENTS

More than three years after the earthquake, around 320,000 Haitians who lost their homes still live in 385 makeshift camps and settlements dotted in and around Port-au-Prince, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a Geneva-based intergovernmental organisation.

But the shortage of housing in the capital was an acute problem even before the quake hit, with around 70 percent of people living in slums.

“The overwhelming numbers of inadequate homes, which are over crowded, lacking basic services, and at extreme exposure to risk are the tangible and visible result of a severely dysfunctional housing system,” the report said.

It noted the demand for new homes would continue to rise as Haiti’s total population is expected to nearly double over the next 40 years, from 10 to 18 million inhabitants. The largest city, Port-au-Prince, has around 2 million residents, which is expected to reach six million by 2030.

Despite such rising demand, few new permanent brick homes are being built across Port-au-Prince.

“Positive examples of permanent housing solutions are scant. Too much focus has been placed on the construction of physical structures rather than on setting up the sustainable delivery mechanisms that will stimulate the creation of sustainable communities and private investment in the sector,” the report said.

With around 70 percent of Haitians living on less than $2 per day, few Haitians are eligible for housing mortgages because they simply cannot repay them.

“Meanwhile families still do not have the capacity to pay for housing and are unable to borrow to finance housing, which leaves them living in inadequate shelters,” the report said.

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