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Haiti cuts ribbon for 400-house community for quake victims

For 400 families who lost their homes in the 2010 earthquake, the inauguration of the Les Orangers housing development north of Port-au-Prince will mark a major milestone in Haiti’s reconstruction.

The 400-house community was inaugurated on Monday, February 27 by Haitian President Michel Martelly, who had launched the construction work in June 2011, shortly after taking office.

“These 400 houses I’m inaugurating today reflect our vision of establishing a State that serves its people,” Martelly said in a speech. “As of today, 400 families who lived in temporary shelters, in unspeakable circumstances, will be able to live in better conditions.”

The project was financed in large part by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which approved a $30 million grant for a shelter program after the earthquake. Additional contributions were made by Food for the Poor, a Florida-based non-profit organization.

After it identified suitable land for the new community, the Haitian government set ambitious goals for the program, requiring that permanent housing be built at Les Orangers rather than transitional homes.

Haiti’s Fund for Economic and Social Assistance (FAES) supervised the construction of the pastel-colored 35-square meter (about 380-square foot) units. Each house has two rooms, a cooking area, a bathroom and connections to a septic tank, water and electricity services. The neighborhood also has paved roads, playgrounds, a community center and areas for shops.

All of the families that will be assigned homes in Les Orangers have to be registered on the International Organization for Migration’s database of earthquake victims. In order to promote the establishment of a mixed-income community, the Haitian government decided to reserve 50 units for public servants left homeless by the quake. Rather than giving the houses away, the State will lease them at subsidized rates.

Most families will pay around 2,500 gourdes (about $62) a month for rent, expect for the poorest ones, who will contribute with community work. The money will go into a community fund to pay for maintenance and other common expenses. Long-term residents will be able to become owners of their units.

As part of the project, the IDB will also cover the cost of social support services to assist families for up to 18 months after they move into the new neighborhood, providing them access to job training and other opportunities to increase their incomes.

“When one gives a family the keys to a new house, one can hardly begin to imagine the change that can mean for that family,” said the IDB’s Representative Eduardo Almeida. “It will change how they live.”

The project will continue building more homes outside of the Port-au-Prince region this year, said its team leader, IDB urban development specialist Arcindo Santos. About 750 homes will be built in the north, where the IDB is financing a regional development plan anchored by the soon-to-be-completed Caracol Industrial Park.

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