Housing in Haiti: Current Legal Challenges

There is no mortgage system in Haiti, although current aid projects are trying to change this. Traditionally, Haitians have had to build their homes over the course of decades – often 20-30 years – as they have money to do so. This is why many homes in Haiti have unfinished second floors.

Asian Haitian. "We've only got the first floor. The second floor is unfinished...." I want to go there!. WordPress. Accessed April 2012.

Even under the emerging system, with sky-high unemployment, many Haitians will not qualify for mortgages. Moreover,the average home or building in Haiti has no home insurance, so when the earthquake hit in 2010, everything Haitians owned was lost – period. Most have no fiscal means of rebuilding at this time.

Homeowners in Haiti lost everything after the earthquake, with no safety net. Source: Dominican News. 2010. "Haiti." Accessed April 2012.

Haiti Creating Home Loan System for First Time

Aid organizations can cause problems just as much as they try to fix them. Foreigners face legal barriers to purchasing property in Haiti, so they rent buildings and cars instead. This has augmented the IDP population, because aid organizations (Non-Governmental Organizations, or NGOs) rent space from Haitian owners. Sometimes, these owners are subsequently displaced and move to Tent Cities, where they can live on rent money.

Real estate prices – especially rents – have skyrocketed since the 2010 earthquake, as so many houses and office buildings were destroyed. For Haitians fortunate enough to still own in-tact property in this “disaster economy,” there is a drive to make large fortunes by charging exorbitant rent prices. This trend is forcing domestic non-profits, civic organizations, churches, schools, and even orphanages to work from makeshift shelters or tents; landlords know they can charge twice as much renting to NGOs, who “have the big money.” Marie-Jose Poux, the manager of an orphanage in Delmas, is suing her landlord over an extra $6,000 he suddenly demanded on her orphanage’s current lease under the threat of eviction. 25 children are on a waiting list for the orphanage.

The Haitian government allows squatters to claim squatter’s rights after inhabiting a property for three years. In tent cities, this time limit is approaching fast, in January 2013; however, seven lawsuits have already been filed in Grace Tent City by inhabitants who were moved to different tent sites within the City. The inability to relocate inhabitants of Grace Tent City would interfere with plans to rebuild a school and hospital on the property.

The constitutional power of the national government of Haiti, as specified under the Constitution of 1987, is limited when it comes to expropriating property for a public purpose. For example, when Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive announced after the earthquake of 2010 that the government would expropriate land to build camps, issues arose in and around Port-au-Prince as a small elite owns most of this land. The government did not own enough land to provide property for the 600,000-800,000 displaced people around Port-au-Prince to build temporary shelter, and despite pleas to confiscate private land for this purpose, they were legally unable to do so. The law contains no provisions for emergency situations. Moreover, it was unclear what land the government owned in the first place, as record keeping of Haitian property has never been strong, and titles have often been passed down without written exchanges. Another possibility is that the Haitian government is choosing not to disclose specifics about this state-owned land.

Source: GoogleMaps

Works Consulted

AP. 30 April 2012. “Haiti capital to add hundreds of new hotel rooms, raising hope for more investment. Washington Post. Accessed April 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/haiti-capital-to-add-hundreds-of-new-hotel-rooms-raising-hope-for-more-investment/2012/04/30/gIQAPHZjrT_story.html

Insurance Information Institute. Jan 2010. “Private Insurance Market in Haiti Small.” Insurance Journal. http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/international/2010/01/14/106618.htm

Parrish, Christine. 12 April 2012. “Inside a Tent City Slum.” The Free Press. Accessed April 2012. http://freepressonline.com/main.asp?SectionID=52&SubSectionID=78&ArticleID=18608

Riddick, Winston. 2010. “Haitian Immovable Property Law Obstacle for Development.” Originally Presented at the Judge Allen M. Babineaux International Civil Law Symposium, the 20th Anniversary International Civil Law Symposium, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, July 25, 2010—July 29, 2010. Haitian Resource Development Foundation. Accessed April 2012. http://www.hrdf.org/Professor-Winston-Riddick-Law-Corner/haitian-immovable-property-lawobsticle-for-development.html

Sasser, Bill. March 2011. “Haiti’s housing bubble, more pressing to some than election or Aristide.” The Christian Science Monitor. Accessed April 2012. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2011/0318/Haiti-s-housing-bubble-more-pressing-to-some-than-election-or-Aristide

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