The U.N. and other aid agencies characterized the January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti as the largest urban disaster in modern history. It affected an estimated 3 million people, including 1.5 million people displaced to 1,300 settlement sites throughout Port-au-Prince.
One of the biggest challenges of Haiti’s rebuilding is providing shelter to those who lost their homes. The earthquake created more than 10 million cubic meters of debris, hindering reconstruction. The loss of critical records in the earthquake has made identifying the rightful owners of land extremely difficult, and this has exacerbated the problem of identifying land for housing.
Despite these challenges and in support of Government of Haiti priorities, the international community has made significant contributions in the shelter sector. As of March 2013, approximately 79 percent of the original 1.5 million people displaced in camps have left for alternative housing. Efforts continue to identify suitable options for the approximately 320,000 (21 percent) that still remain. Repairing damaged “yellow” houses and replacing completely destroyed “red” houses provides opportunities for both ownership and rentals for earthquake victims. The U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has been a key leader in the shelter sector response, both during the emergency response and in the longer-term reconstruction effort. USAID is helping earthquake-affected families reclaim and rebuild their lives.
Emergency Shelter Provision, Transitional Shelter, and Repair Solutions: In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, USAID worked with the Government of Haiti, international community, and with non-governmental organization partners to provide emergency shelter to 1.5 million displaced persons. In total, USAID has provided approximately $135.7 million for emergency shelter activities and provision of shelter solutions in Haiti since the earthquake.
Following the emergency phase, USAID reached more than 65,600 households by providing shelter solutions, including transitional shelters (t-shelters), repairs to damaged houses, support to host families who housed displaced people, and rental vouchers. USAID partners constructed over 29,100 t-shelters, repaired more than 5,800 “yellow” structures to shelter over 8,100 households and provided hosting support to over 27,200 households and rental vouchers to roughly 1,200 households, thereby housing more than 328,000 individuals.
Neighborhood-Based Resettlement Approach: USAID supports a neighborhood-based approach to facilitate returns to areas of origin and help re-establish pre-earthquake social and economic structures. These involve extensive community participation and close coordination between and among the community members, the Government of Haiti, donors, and implementing partners. While this approach is more time consuming than simply constructing shelters, it serves as an opportunity to improve neighborhoods from their pre-earthquake conditions through community development.
For example, in the Ravine Pintade neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, USAID support encompassed rubble removal, “yellow” house repairs, and the construction of footpaths, drainage lines, retaining walls, and t-shelters, including innovative two-story t-shelters. Furthermore, USAID has upgraded and repaired key public and community facilities, including community libraries, cultural centers, vocational training centers, public and private schools, and solar street lights, as well as secured scholarships for returning and resettled internally displaced students and young adults. The World Bank has initiated a $95 million neighborhood upgrading project—$65 million of which is funded through the U.S. Government contribution to the Haiti Reconstruction Fund.
USAID implemented a pilot program that provided families with options to resettle out of camps. USAID provided housing options for camp residents in Place St. Pierre and Place Boyer, two prominent public parks in Petionville, a Port-au-Prince suburb, where internally displaced persons (IDPs) lived in tents for nearly two years. Under priorities identified by the Government of Haiti, USAID worked with the local municipality, Government of Haiti officials, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to resettle more than 1,300 families residing in these areas. After registering for the program, residents chose which resettlement option was best for their family: repair of their “yellow” house, demolition of a “red” house with the construction of a t-shelter, or a one-year rental assistance grant. This USAID pilot program concluded March 2012 and the Government of Haiti has incorporated several components of this activity into their ongoing 16/6 housing resettlement program.
Enumeration: An impediment to the returns process is land tenure, which was largely undocumented in official records prior to the earthquake. While the Government of Haiti develops more long-term solutions to land tenure issues, USAID is supporting a participatory community enumeration process, which serves as a fast-track transitional measure to facilitate returns to neighborhoods and reconstruction efforts. The enumeration process consists of speaking with IDPs to collect information regarding tenure and occupancy, which the community then validates to confirm its accuracy. Under this program, IOM collected, recorded, and validated land tenure and occupancy status of more than 10,600 plots/buildings with USAID support. IOM and the Government of Haiti have scaled up this pilot methodology through a Haiti Reconstruction Fund project that will record tenure and occupancy information for every single household in the earthquake-affected zone.
The Final Phase—Permanent Shelter Solutions: Replacing housing stock lost as a result of the earthquake and providing ownership opportunities for identified beneficiaries is the final phase of U.S. Government post-earthquake reconstruction and recovery support for housing. To meet this Government of Haiti priority, USAID is providing housing in new settlements near employment opportunities in the Port-au-Prince, St. Marc, and Cap-Haitien Development Corridors. USAID is planning to construct 906 homes using direct funds and approximately 2,100 homes in partnership with other NGOs and donors. The housing, being developed in conjunction with development partners, provides opportunities for earthquake victims and other eligible households. USAID is also exploring opportunities to increase access to housing finance as well as providing community development support to ensure sustainability of these settlements.