Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Haitian Houses

$900,000 for a 3-bedroom ... in Haiti?

It's just two miles from where Dominique Tombeau lives today to the house he dreams about at night, but the road runs straight uphill.

Nine months after the schoolteacher's concrete home collapsed in front of his wife and 4-year-old son, the family and three in-laws are stuck under a plastic tarp that pours down water when it rains. All he wants is to move up, to a working man's apartment in the tree-lined suburb of Petionville. But every place he can even consider costs double or triple the $43 a month he used to pay in rent, even though he and everyone he knows has less money than ever.

Haiti's brittle housing supply was shattered by the Jan. 12 earthquake, which destroyed an estimated 110,000 homes and apartment buildings. Since then demand has soared, as the more than 1.5 million people who lost their homes compete for new ones at the bottom end of the market, and a rising tide of foreigners from the U.N. and aid groups flood in from the top.

The result: There are not enough houses, and not enough money for people to rent the ones still standing. More than 1.3 million Haitians live in squatter camps, facing disgruntled landowners and violent evictions, with no international or government plan to move or house them. The prices have everyone stuck.

"The type of house most people rented before was not built well. Those houses were destroyed, and the ones that are left are too expensive," Tombeau explained with the patience of a man used to walking teenagers through French grammar. "When they find a decent camp to live in, they decide they'd rather stay."

The rest of the article here.

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