Haiti: Efforts to rebuild and repair housing in Port-au-Prince after the January 2010 earthquake, particularly in the wealthiest neighbourhoods; availability of houses and apartments in Port-au-Prince [HTI103972.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Efforts to Rebuild and Repair Housing

According to the sources consulted by the Research Directorate, efforts to rebuild and repair housing since the earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010 are progressing slowly (Le Monde 11 Jan. 2012; Chronicle of Philanthropy 11 Jan. 2012; Oxfam 10 Jan. 2012, 1). In January 2012, more than 500,000 people were still living in camps for displaced persons around Port-au-Prince (Le Monde 11 Jan. 2012; The Chronicle of Philanthropy 11 Jan. 2012; IOM n.d.). Some sources also note that approximately half of the debris produced by the earthquake had still not been cleaned up (Le Monde 11 Jan. 2012; La Presse 12 Jan. 2012). In addition, according to a report in La Presse, [translation] “new houses intended to last are scarce” in Port-au-Prince (ibid.).

Sources note that land ownership problems present additional challenges to rebuilding and repairing housing (The Chronicle of Philanthropy 11 Jan. 2012; UN 9 Aug. 2011). According to the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), even before the earthquake, it was difficult to determine the ownership of land, and this problem became more complex after the earthquake (ibid.). The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a publication based in Washington that covers work currently being carried out by non-governmental organizations (The Chronicle of Philanthropy n.d.), notes the “confusion” over land ownership and explains that land disputes have halted some construction projects (11 Jan. 2012). The IRIN also indicated that land disputes can delay or hinder housing construction efforts (UN 9 Aug. 2011).

1.1 Wealthier Neighbourhoods

Several sources consulted by the Research Directorate agree that Pétionville is a relatively well-to-do neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince (lawyer 12 Feb. 2012; Courrier international 28 Jan. 2010; The New York Times 27 Mar. 2010). However, the New York Times also notes that, before the earthquake, poor families lived near the more affluent families in Pétionville (ibid.). A lawyer who works for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), an NGO based in the United States, and who wrote a report on the progress of rebuilding housing in Haiti, stated that Canapé Vert and Delmas 33 were middle-class neighbourhoods and noted that poor people also lived in those districts (lawyer 12 Feb. 2012).

In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate on 3 February 2012, a professor of sociology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, whose interests are in social, economic and political issues in Haiti, stated that rebuilding was progressing much better and quicker in the more affluent neighbourhoods than in the poorer neighbourhoods, because the residents have the means to do it. In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the lawyer from the IJDH also stated that rebuilding was progressing much more quickly in the wealthier neighbourhoods (Lawyer 3 Feb. 2012). Sources indicate that the most affluent neighbourhoods in Port-au-Prince also suffered less damage in the earthquake (ibid.; Courrier international 28 Jan. 2010).

1.2 Situation of the middle class

According to the IJDH lawyer, up until August 2011, when she concluded her research, "there was no real plan" for rebuilding and repairing housing; people therefore had to take reconstruction work upon themselves, but the lawyer explained that only members of the middle and upper classes have the means to do this (lawyer 3 Feb. 2012). She added that many members of the middle class are entrepreneurs who own hotels, restaurants or shops frequented by the expatriate community working in Haiti and that, consequently, they have access to the capital needed to rebuild and repair their homes (ibid.).

However, according to an article in the Seattle Times published on 10 July 2010,six months after the earthquake, the middle class in Haiti had been overlooked in initial reconstruction efforts. The article states that members of the middle class lost the most in this disaster, since the majority of poor people in the country had little to lose in the first place, while the elite had the means to get back on their feet (The Seattle Times 10 July 2010). The article cites a Haitian economist as saying that members of the middle class had invested everything in their homes and that they have “lost it all” (ibid.). According to the article, the reconstruction efforts were aimed specifically at housing those who did not have homes before the earthquake (ibid.) According to the Seattle Times, the Haitian middle class accounts for approximately 15 percent of the population (ibid.).

2. Rental Housing

Sources consulted by the Research Directorate confirm that it is possible to rent housing in Port-au-Prince (Lawyer 3 Feb. 2012; AlterPresse 31 Jan. 2012). However, those sources also noted that rental rates have increased (ibid.; lawyer 3 Feb. 2012). The lawyer stated that, although the government officially controls rental rates, that control is not exercised in practice (ibid). According to the lawyer, rental rates have increased 300 to 400 percent since the earthquake (ibid). She added that renters must pay one year’s rent in advance (ibid.). According to the lawyer, rent for a "very simple, basic" two-bedroom apartment in a modest neighbourhood is approximately US$2,000 a year, while an apartment in a wealthier neighbourhood, in a gated community, for example, can cost approximately US$400 per month (ibid). The lawyer explained that, because of the rent increases, some people no longer have the means to stay in or return to the homes they had before the earthquake (ibid). According to an article from the Haitian news agency AlterPresse, despite a government program that offers a subsidy of 20,000 Haitian gourdes [approximately C$494 (XE 7 Feb. 2012)] to rehouse displaced persons who were camping out in the Champ de Mars, some of those people can only rent a room in the [translation] “risky areas,” such as the Gran Ravin, Cité Soleil and Village de Dieu neighbourhoods (31 Jan. 2012).

3. Possibility of Hiring Contractors

Sources consulted by the Research Directorate confirmed that it is possible to hire contractors in Port-au-Prince (AU 6 Feb. 2012; lawyer 3 Feb. 2012). The IJDH lawyer also said that it is easy to hire construction companies and obtain construction materials (ibid). She also stated that programs offered by the International Organization for Migration and the UN Development Programme focus specifically on redeveloping sustainable construction capabilities (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

AlterPresse. 31 January 2012. “Haïti-relocalisation : Des familles sinistrées au Champ de Mars, insatisfaites.” <http://www.alterpresse.org/spip.php?article12298> [Accessed 7 Feb. 2012]

Architectes de l’urgence (AU). 6 February 2012. Correspondence from a representative in Haiti sent to the Research Directorate.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy [Washington]. 11 January 2012. Marisa López-Rivera and Caroline Preston. “Lack of Housing Bedevils Haiti Earthquake Recovery as Cash Runs Low.” <http://philanthropy.com/article/Lack-of-Housing-Hampers-Haiti/130293/> [Accessed 3 Feb. 2012]

_____. N.d. "About The Chronicle of Philanthropy." <http://philanthropy.com/page/About-The-Chronicle-of/235/> [Accessed 20 Feb. 2012]

Courrier international [Paris]. 28 January 2010. Juan Carlos Chavez. “Haïti : Les quartiers riches presque épargnés.” <http://www.courrierinternational.com/article/2010/01/28/les-quartiers-riches-presque-epargnes> [Accessed 3 Feb. 2012]

International Organization for Migration (IOM). N.d. Displacement Tracking Matrix. “Total Number of Displaced Individuals from July 2010 to January 2012.” <http://iomhaitidataportal.info/dtm/default.aspx?overviewdtm.aspx> [Accessed 20 Jan. 2012]

Lawyer, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). 12 February 2012. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate.

_____. 3 February 2012. Telephone interview.

Le Monde [Paris]. 11 January 2012. Jean-Michel Caroit. “À Haïti, la reconstruction avance ‘à pas de tortue.’” <http://www.lemonde.fr/ameriques/article/2012/01/11/a-haiti-la-reconstruction-avance-a-pas-de-tortue_1628252_3222.html> [Accessed 13 Jan. 2012]

The New York Times. 27 March 2010. Simon Romero. “Quake Accentuated Chasm that Has Defined Haiti.” <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/world/americas/28haitipoor.html> [Accessed 3 Feb. 2012]

Oxfam. 10 January 2012. Haïti : une reconstruction au ralenti. Deux ans après le tremblement de terre. <http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/haitibriefingnotefr.pdf> [Accessed 3 Feb. 2012]

La Presse [Montréal]. 12 January 2012. Agnès Gruda. “Port-au-Prince : des ruines et des promesses.” <http://www.cyberpresse.ca/international/dossiers/seisme-en-haiti/201201/12/01-4485044-port-au-prince-des-ruines-et-des-promesses.php> [Accessed 3 Feb. 2012]

Professor of sociology, Wesleyan University, Connecticut. 3 February 2012. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate.

The Seattle Times. 10 July 2010. Jacqueline Charles. “Haiti’s Middle Class Forgotten in Rush to Rebuild.” <http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2012321077_haitimiddleclass11.html> [Accessed 7 Feb. 2012]

United Nations (UN). 9 August 2011. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). “Haiti: Political Stalemate Adds to Reconstruction Woes.” <http://www.irinnews.org/printreport.aspx?reportid=93460> [Accessed 7 Feb. 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: A professor of international studies at the University of Ottawa was not able to provide any information within the time constraints for this Response. Attempts to reach a representative of the International Organization for Migration in Haiti were unsuccessful.

Internet sites, including: Agence haïtienne de presse; Amnesty International; ecoi.net; Factiva; Haiti Analysis; Inter Press Service; Le Nouvelliste; United Nations – Refworld, ReliefWeb.