Housing in Haiti: Canadian aid and post-earthquake recovery

Housing in Haiti CHAN report, 2012.jpg

Introduction, December 23, 2012

Canada has been one of the biggest donor nations in the international recovery effort following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. Yet since the initial media storm, there has been little comprehensive Canadian reporting on reconstruction efforts in Haiti. To gather information on post-earthquake recovery, an investigative delegation of the Canada Haiti Action Network travelled to Haiti from March 24 to April 7, 2012. Two areas of inquiry form the basis of this report on housing in Haiti: (1) Canada's contribution to post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction in Haiti, in particular its financing of the Champ de Mars resettlement program, and (2) long-term solutions to Haiti's housing crisis, developed to address the needs of Haitians as defined by Haitians themselves.

Champ de Mars square surrounds Haiti's National Palace, and the camps established there after the earthquake have been among the most visible of the hundreds spread throughout the capital city, Port-au-Prince. The $19.9 million Champs de Mars resettlement program, financed by Canada and administered by the International Organization for Migration, hinges on a $500 subsidy for rental accommodation designed to move people out of the camps. We spoke to program officials, housing advocates and lawyers, and camp residents directly impacted by the program. While the rental subsidy offers residents temporary relief from the horrible conditions in the camps, several concerns about the program emerged. A lack of consultation and communication with camp residents has led to confusion about the project, especially with regard to how funds are being allocated. There is a discrepancy between program spending and camp residents' preference for how funds be spent, with residents worried about what they will do after the subsidy period ends. A minority of camp residents were excluded from program registration and ultimately faced forced eviction from Champ de Mars, a human rights violation under Haitian and international law.

In the long run, the $19.9 million committed by Canada to the Champ de Mars project does not help Haitians. While clearing out camp sites may give the appearance of progress, it simply moves the problem out of sight. At the core of the housing crisis is a need to build accessible and liveable housing.

In contrast to the approach employed with the Champ de Mars project, Canadian financing for the housing project led by Haitian organization ITECA can make a long-term impact, providing permanent and appropriate housing for families. ITECA's housing project in a small community near Léogâne, the epicentre of the earthquake, sets a standard for project planning, safe and functional housing, and community ownership. Far too often, Haitians have been spectators rather than participants in important decisions and processes related to the long-term development of their country. Any meaningful reconstruction process in Haiti will require a central, decision-making role for its government and social organizations, along with a dedicated and well-resourced effort to build and expand Haiti's civil society, public sector, and governmental capacity. Canada's role should be to support such a process through direct financial support to Haitian-led relief organizations and Haitian government institutions.

The report, Housing in Haiti: Canadian aid and post-earthquake recovery is attached to this web page as a pdf.