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
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.