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Housing & Settlements

Haut Damier Housing Site in St Marc
Haut Damier Housing Site in St Marc


The U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has been a leader in the shelter and settlements sector in post-earthquake Haiti, both during the emergency response and in the longer-term reconstruction effort. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the Government of Haiti worked with USAID, the international community, and non‐governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide emergency shelter to an estimated 1.5 million Haitians. As of December 2014, nearly all of these internally displaced persons (IDPs) had left temporary camps for alternative housing options. USAID, for its part, provided shelter solutions to more than 328,000 people through transitional shelters (t-shelters), repairs to damaged houses, support to host families who housed displaced people, and rental vouchers.

Key Challenges

The need for housing in Haiti is great, and rebuilding after one of the worst urban natural disasters in history will take time. Challenges to progress in the shelter sector include:

  • Lack of Available Stock: The lack of adequate affordable housing has been a longstanding issue in Haiti; the destruction caused by the 2010 earthquake exacerbated the problem. According to Government of Haiti estimates, over the next 10 years, the Port-au-Prince region alone will require up to 500,000 additional housing units to make up for the pre-earthquake housing shortage, replace stock lost during the disaster, and accommodate the significant amount of expected urban growth.
  • Unclear Land Tenure: According to Government of Haiti estimates, as much as 70 percent of Port-au-Prince’s pre-quake population lived in informal settlements. In many cases, land tenure was governed by a range of informal arrangements involving renters and owners. This included multiple layers of ownership, where one person may have owned the land and another the building, while a third person rented living space. Identifying clear ownership is the crucial first step to rebuilding.
  • Lack of Governmental Capacity: The Government of Haiti continues to rebuild after many of its most experienced civil servants were killed in the earthquake. In order to make lasting, sustainable changes, the Public Enterprise for the Promotion of Social Housing- the Haitian Government entity that oversees shelter - must increase its capacity to manage and implement shelter solutions.

U.S. Government Strategy

USAID's initial housing reconstruction strategy included efforts to develop new settlements to replace housing stock lost during the earthquake. In particular, the majority of USAID shelter funds were dedicated to construction of permanent homes on new settlement sites in the Cap-Haïtien and Port-au-Prince development corridors. This approach envisioned USAID and other donors funding 100 percent of the cost of construction for detached single-family homes on land provided by the Government of Haiti. After initial projects fell short of expectations, USAID recognized that this approach is not cost-effective and that the need far exceeds what all donor efforts could meet. Therefore, USAID is shifting away from new construction and putting a greater emphasis on providing low-income households with access to housing finance and better infrastructure, working in existing neighborhoods, and helping the private sector to play a more prominent role in housing construction.

To achieve greater cost efficiency and sustainability, new USAID shelter investments will focus on measures to broaden access to safe, low-cost housing by supporting increased access to financing.

  • For example, in two existing neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, USAID and international NGOs are helping homeowners identify financing for housing improvements, home expansions, and new housing construction. This pilot program works with financing institutions to develop lending instruments for these homeowners. 
  • Another initiative encourages greater investment by the private sector, including property developers and financing institutions, in expanding the overall housing stock, particularly for lower-income groups. USAID is also working through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the USAID Development Credit Authority to encourage financial institutions to develop new loan instruments for housing upgrades and mortgage loans. 
To enhance sustainability, USAID is working to build the capacity of the Government of Haiti to manage the housing sector. 
  • For example, USAID is partnering with the Government of Haiti and an international NGO to formalize and improve new settlements that sprang up after the earthquake in areas that previously had been sparsely settled; these growing settlements now have several hundred thousand residents without adequate infrastructure, such as roads, water, or power.
  • At the same time, USAID will continue to support the multi-stakeholder Haiti Property Law Working Group and reform efforts within the Government of Haiti to clarify and streamline the byzantine process for legally acquiring title to property.

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Last updated: February 17, 2017

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