September 18, 2012
More than two and a half years after the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of Haitians are waiting for viable housing solutions. Even before the earthquake, Haiti was experiencing a major housing crisis, with an estimated shortage of 300,000 homes in 2009. After the earthquake, more than 1.5 million people were left homeless,2 and today, the number of people still living in tent camps is estimated to be over 369,000,3 with even more Haitians living in substandard housing, deemed unsafe by public authorities.
Historically, vast public works programs have been implemented around the world to build and manage rental housing, and finance programs to facilitate private home ownership. Haiti should be no exception. The government of Haiti is bound by a constitutional directive to support the needs of people living without adequate housing. Despite the existing crisis, the government of Haiti has not yet produced a comprehensive housing plan to address the shortage of housing affecting homeless Haitians.
Of the $988 million in United States Government post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction efforts, only 10% has been spent to provide shelter to those left homeless.4 Indeed, international assistance for housing has not even scratched the surface of the need, with less than 4,843 homes constructed since the earthquake.5 Relief and reconstruction efforts have neglected to prioritize the most basic need for earthquake survivors, forcing hundreds of thousands of women, men and children to remain under tents for thirty-two months and counting.
$3.06 billion in private donations have been spent since the earthquake,12 but questions remain about the impact of these funds when the most fundamental need of survivors – housing – is not being met.
In addition to the 369,000 people in displacement camps, many others live in housing that does not meet minimum safety standards. In both camps and impoverished urban areas, inadequate sanitation, close living quarters, and limited access to potable water has contributed to the spread of disease, the most fatal of which is cholera, responsible for 7,558 deaths as of September 6, 2012.13 There is also a significant correlation between lack of safe, permanent housing and problems of insecurity. Women and girls in particular have been victim to high rates of gender-based violence in these camps.
The Haitian Right to Housing Collective, an advocacy platform of human rights organizations that includes a coalition of 26 grassroots groups and displacement camp committees, is calling on the Haitian government, with the support of its allies and donors, like the US government, to prioritize public or affordable housing for Haiti’s urban poor and homeless. In order to do this, the Haitian government must first:
(1) Designate land for housing construction;
(2) Create one centralized government housing institution to coordinate and implement a social housing plan; and
(3) Solicit and allocate funding to realize this plan.
Having already invested nearly $98 million in temporary shelter assistance post-earthquake, the US government is implicated in the failure to provide adequate housing solutions. Permanent housing should be a priority for the remaining $1.12 billion in “committed” funds in the recovery and reconstruction budget.14 With this funding, the US government can dramatically improve the lives of thousands of families by reallocating funding for permanent, lasting housing solutions.
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