Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with about 6 out of 10 people living on less than US$2 per day.
Political instability, food shortages, unemployment, natural disasters, inadequate public services and a lack of basic infrastructure have kept most Haitians locked in a cycle of poverty for generations. Another driver of poverty is Haiti’s longstanding lack of adequate, affordable housing.
The destruction caused by the 2010 earthquake exacerbated the problem. According to Haitian government estimates, over the next 10 years, the Port-au-Prince region alone will require up to 500,000 additional housing units to make up for the pre-earthquake housing shortage, replace stock lost during the disaster, and accommodate the significant amount of expected urban growth.
On August 14, 2021 at 8:30 am local time, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the southwestern coast of Haiti causing large-scale damage across the country’s southern peninsula. Government figures corroborated by the country shelter group determined almost 54,000 homes were destroyed and more than 83,000 sustained damage. Additionally, many public buildings, schools, and churches suffered significant damage or were destroyed. As a result, some 650,000 people – 40% of the area’s entire population of 1.6 million — have been left in need of shelter assistance. An assessment of the earthquake impact has shown that while housing is the principal economic asset of low-income households, it is also one of the sectors most susceptible to disasters. Common characteristics of the damaged homes in the affected communities were often related to simple shortcomings of construction that could have been avoided with more attention and minimum investments.
Removing the barriers to decent housing in Haiti will help families gain access to the resources they need to invest in repairing and upgrading their homes. Some of the greatest barriers to decent, affordable housing in Haiti include:
- Insecure land tenure: To reduce the threat of eviction and to encourage investment in repairs, Haitians need to have clear, transparent and efficient land transfer processes and ownership verification methods.
- Lack of access to affordable, quality building materials: Approximately 8 out of 10 families in Haiti build their homes incrementally over several years. Low-income families could construct more sustainable housing if they were able to obtain quality products and services tailored to their needs through the private-sector market.
- Lack of access to technical assistance: Low-income residents also would benefit from training in how to construct disaster-resistant homes and to use materials best suited for their location.
- Lack of resources to organize: Many Haitian communities are well-organized at a local level, but their efforts and voices remain unheard at municipality levels. With resources and support, their voices can bring recognition to a community’s needs and capacity to solve problems at a grassroots level.