This is the text of the speech that I gave at the Earthquake Symposium on January 11th in Port-au-Prince. Although I am very proud of the work that we have done to repair houses in Port-au-Prince, I hope that we are able to move beyond just repairing houses to rebuilding communities.
Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon.
The Pan American Development Foundation has been partnering with the Haitian government for over thirty years. We remain committed to helping Haitians to rebuild their homes, rebuild their neighborhoods and rebuild their lives.
I have lived on this island for more than a dozen years. I was living in Santo Domingo when the earthquake hit and drove here bringing the first load of relief supplies the next day.
We have heard of the progress being made on repairing houses, removing rubble, and building transitional houses. These are important steps on the path towards rebuilding communities.
I would like to finish these talks by discussing what it takes to rebuild a community and how we have succeeded in involving both the local community and the Haitian government.
Before the earthquake, PADF was already working in many of the poor neighborhoods throughout Port-au-Prince. We have a program where we are providing technical assistance and grants to the mayors and the main community leaders in neighborhoods such as Delmas 32, Martissant, Belair, and Carrefour Feuille. These were some of the neighborhoods that were hardest hit by the earthquake. When we brought in supplies, we distributed them first in these areas—our first thought was to help our friends and partners.
When we first reached out to donors, it was for funding to help our partners in these neighborhoods. The house tagging and repair program that we proposed to OFDA was initially focused only on these neighborhoods.
I remember driving around PAP shortly after the earthquake. The devastation was overwhelming. Equally overwhelming was the worry of how to rebuild. When I drove Dr. Miyamoto into the county shortly after the earthquake, I remember discussing whether our goal was merely to rebuild the chaos that existed in Port-au-Prince before January 12th or if the goal was to build something better. Is our goal merely to patch the broken walls and remove the mounds of rubble or can we help our communities to rebuild the way that they want to be—to build a better future.
12 months later, we just want to get people out of their tents and into a house. It seems that the dream of building a better Port-au-Prince has died.
I hope not.
Last October I participated in a study trip to Indonesia, organized by the World Bank, to look at the lessons learned from the reconstruction after the tsunami in Acheh in 2004 and the earthquake in Yogyakarta in 2006. What struck me the most is that everyone we talked to—from the local mayors down to the villagers--believed that they were better off today than they were before the disaster—that their community had been built back better.
Clearly this is what we want to do in Haiti.
We are part of a World Bank-financed project that aims to do just that in Port-au-Prince. The Haitian government has selected Delmas 32 as the pilot project for this reconstruction project. The World Bank is providing $30 million on top of the investments that are already being made in this neighborhood to allow it to be completely rebuilt.
Some of the key lessons from Indonesia that are being applied are:
Local Leadership: The reconstruction cannot be led by foreigners. In the case of the tsunami, the Indonesian government appointed a single person to lead the reconstruction efforts. All the decisions related to reconstruction went through his office. In Yogyakarta, it was a local religious leader who stepped forward and said that he would oversee the reconstruction work.
Planning: The reconstruction has to happen in accordance with a clear plan. In the case of Acheh, the government developed urban plans and declared some areas of the coast as no longer safe for construction. Home owners were given other land elsewhere. In both cases, the government played a key role in coordinating the work and assigning tasks to different donors and NGOs. Construction was done in accordance with local and international standards and in respect of a greater urban plan. The goal is to build a better neighborhood, not to rebuild the chaos that existed.
In the case of Delmas 32, Some houses will need to be destroyed to make way for the urbanization. There are houses in Delmas 32 that were green tagged by MPTC, but had previously been marked with a red X for demolition. It takes strong political will power to order the demolition of a safe house to make way for a wider road. It is this will power that is critical to rebuilding these neighborhoods.
Comprehensive: The World Bank funding, coupled with the other funding that has already been provided, should allow for the urban plan to be fully implemented. The idea was not to patch one house here and build one school there, but to completely repair the neighborhood.
Equitable: Rebuilding privately owned structures is delicate. Haiti is a country with large income disparities. All agree that it is fair to rebuild a house for a home owner. But what if one person owns two, three, four, or five houses? Should the government or the international community rebuild all of these houses for each person? What about a building that houses three or four families?
In Acheh, these situations were rare. Here in Port-au-Prince they are common. Although no final decision has been made, my recommendation is to rebuild one house for anyone who lost one. It could be the owners home or their rental property, but only one.
The house should be a standard size—the goal is not to replace what was lost, but to provide a minimal dwelling—30 to 36 square meters. Enough for a family to squeeze together.
Out of the 80,000 red-tagged houses, we estimate that half could be replaced under this program. For the remaining people, organizations can provide loans to landlords who want to repair multiple homes, but they should not be done for free. Or the government could build rent-to-own houses—logements socials.
Another options that is being considered include rebuilding rental homes if the owner agrees to a grace period for rent.
Which option the government selects is less important than actually making the choice. We have found that many people are maintaining their camp residence, even after their house has been repaired, in the hopes that camp residents will be given a house or other special benefits. The sooner that the official policy can be clarified, the sooner we can begin emptying the camps.
Note that this is different from the repair program described by Dr. Miyamoto. We are committed to repairing every house that is legally built and fits within the new urban plan. Repairing houses is the most effective means of allowing people to leave the camps and return home.
This is what we are doing in the neighborhood of Delmas 32. We are repairing 1,000 buildings—nearly all of the ones that are repairable—enough to house 3,000 families. JSPO is removing the debris. The BMPAD, with funding from the World Bank, has begun the work of building this into a new community. An architect is nearly finished with the urban plan—a plan that will allow the streets to be widened, drainage to be built, water and electricity provided, and even some green space. This master plan will guide the reconstruction of this neighborhood.
Note that we did not wait on repairing houses until the urban plan was done. Planning is a slow process. It must be led by the Mayor and must involve the community. It is also an iterative process: the architect prepares the first version and presents it to the mayor and the community. Changes are proposed and it is redone. This process has to take time to allow for community participation.
If we had waited until the plan was approved before starting the work, then those 3,000 families would still be stuck in the camps. There is the risk that some houses that we repaired will be demolished. We estimate that only 10% of the repaired houses are at risk. We accept that risk and would rather let families return home knowing that 90% of them will be able to stay rather than hold all of them up over the risk that a few might later lose their homes.
So how does this work?
The community plays a role in every step. We are working closely with the local leaders to identify the houses that are being repaired. We have consulted closely with them in developing the urban plan. They will continue to play an important role in every step.
Step One was the rubble removal and repairs. Although not completed in Delmas 32, it is ongoing.
Step Two was the urban planning—done in parallel with the rubble removal and repairs.
Step Three is identifying the houses and structures that will be rebuilt
Step Four is training on quality standards—development of the “centre d’excellence.”
Step five is implementation of the reconstruction
- Houses will be rebuilt directly by the owners with strong quality control
- Roads and public buildings will be contracted out to private construction companies
- The overall work will be coordinated through the mayors’ office with strong technical assistance from the BMPAD team.
Key to the success of this endeavor will be the coordination with the different actors. USAID is providing funding to rebuild the road through Delmas 32, another donor is installing the water system, etc.
On the eve of the anniversary of the one-year anniversary, I would love to be able to tell you that this project was a success or that it is going well. Unfortunately, it has just begun. I hope that when we meet again at the second anniversary, we are talking about how many different neighborhoods are being rebuild along this model.
I do believe that we can move from rebuilding houses to rebuilding neighborhoods to rebuilding lives and that we can build a better tomorrow for Port-au-Prince and all of Haiti.