ORLANDO, Florida — The longstanding issue of underdevelopment in Haiti has destabilized the country for decades. Political assassinations, natural disasters and rising violence throughout the years are factors that have aggravated Haiti’s economic conditions. According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CRF), Haiti has heavily relied on aid provided by other countries, using the money for development programs, relief missions and infrastructural rehabilitation. Even so, Haiti’s housing crisis has devastated the country for years and has only been worsened by political instability, the COVID-19 pandemic and catastrophic environmental shocks such as the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
The World Bank reports that Haiti’s consecutive economic contraction between 2019-2022 has essentially “undone” any efforts in poverty reduction as the economy is crippled further. Many who experience the worst from underdevelopment and a lack of secure infrastructure are those within the agricultural regions, where there is a significant portion of the country’s substandard housing. In Haiti, the poor quality of construction materials also plays a role in perpetuating a cycle of devastation.
Fortunately, development programs enacted by organizations such as Habitat for Humanity in Haiti have aided the rebuilding of homes that have been lost from environmental disaster and of communities that are in desperate need of accessible critical services, according to their website. Habitat for Humanity has offered services of retrofitting to reinforce building structures and reduce he risk of disaster for thousands of people. The organization also trains “residents in vocational skills,” improving expertise on construction, financial literacy, house maintenance and disaster risk reduction, promoting sustainable and secure housing needs. After the 2010 earthquake, Habitat for Humanity’s “community action plan” had trained 5,000 families and retrofitted more than 650 homes in the neighborhood of Simon-Pelé.
According to Habitat for Humanity, the 2010 earthquake put Haiti’s housing insecurity in critical condition. Before the earthquake, Haiti was in need of approximately 300,000 homes. The disaster then damaged 190,000 and destroyed 105,000. The issue of land rights also came into play. According to a USAID issue brief, at the time of the 2010 earthquake, property claims were “up for grabs” when a substantial amount of recorded land documentation was lost “under the rubble,” prompting a major increase in land control conflicts.
With a poorly funded government, many displaced residents were relocated to underdeveloped land in which tenants would assume temporary housing and would need new land documentation later on when fully resettling. USAID reports that only 40% of landowners held sufficient documentation and many records throughout urban and rural cadastres remained as outdated registrations. For there to be a wider range of housing accessibility, development programs in Haiti have now reassessed and advocated for a functional land ownership system in order to further Haiti’s reconstruction from the 2010 earthquake and more recently, Hurricane Matthew. In 2019, Habitat for Humanity began establishing improved land administration systems in order to further Haiti’s housing process.
As of yet, there is much to be done. Haiti’s government is still recovering from an economic deficit influenced by years of setbacks. Yet this is not to say that there has been little improvement in Haiti’s housing crisis — many foreign countries have taken part in boosting the country’s governmental and economic development, as Haiti seeks to protect its citizens from further stresses caused by environmental crises.
– Lucy Cosme Vera