Confronting Haiti’s housing woes

Haiti’s cash-strapped government has been criticized for both the size and location of new housing units, built to resolve the lack of post-earthquake permanent housing there.

By Jacqueline Charles, McClatchy / February 13, 2013

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton (2nd R) visits the Mission of Hope Leveque Housing Community and Agricultural and Technical Research Training Center in Leveque Tuesday. Clinton flew to Haiti on Saturday to join the country’s president, Michel Martelly, at an official commemoration of the third anniversary of the earthquake that decimated the capital and killed more than 250,000 people.

Swoan Parker/Reuters


The bright green, orange, and blue box-shaped tiny buildings beckon like neon signs on a dark night.

Partially built and the size of a tiny motel room, the two-room structures are a huge improvement over the tattered tents and tin shacks where 347,284 Haitians still linger three years after the devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.

But as Haiti‘s government moves to resolve the biggest reconstruction issue – permanent housing – officials are facing a lack of funds to solve the problem and getting criticized over the size and location of the houses that are being built. Some even question whether the government should be in the construction business.

“It’s better than a tent, but it’s not the real aspirations of the people,” said Leslie Voltaire, an urban planner who worked on housing issues after the quake. “I think it’s a bad idea to give a product like that to the people. They want respect and you are downgrading them.”

But Patrick Rouzier, housing adviser to President Michel Martelly, said the 344-square-feet houses are more than dignified. They consist of two-rooms, a kitchen and bath.

“We cannot cross our arms and say we won’t do anything for the people underneath the tents,” said Rouzier, a businessman. “We saw what (hurricane) Sandy and the other guy, Isaac, could do. Do you still say, ‘Listen, since we don’t have the money to give them houses, let’s keep them in the camps?’ I rather help them and at least for the next hurricane season they won’t be in the tents.”

At a cost of $48 million, the 3,000 houses being built on the outskirts of Croix-des-Bouquets are only part of the government’s housing fix. The plan also includes revitalizing quake-damaged neighborhoods and urbanizing slums and undeveloped areas.

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