Here’s a sunny, unreported addition to the well-worn but well worth repeating story about Haiti’s housing crisis – 500,000 permanent homes needed over the next decade and no one knows how, or if ever, this will happen.
But, if all goes to plan, a private Indian company will soon start to build 300 houses for just $5 million not far from Port au Prince. The Mahatma Gandhi Village is envisaged by the Indian government as its contribution to Haiti’s harrowing housing problems.
The project has much to recommend it and will not come a day too soon.
First, as the Miami Herald constantly points out, Haiti has too few permanent houses and reconstruction has been too slow, too sporadic and simply too expensive to have been effective in the last three years.
Second, $ 5 million is a pretty remarkable price tag. The 3,000 houses being built on the outskirts of Croix-des-Bouquets will reportedly cost $48 milllion. And the 400 houses built in Zorange and paid for by the Inter-American Development Bank, cost about $8 million.
So, how will the Indians do this relatively cheaply? Will these be nano houses like the Nano car manufactured by Tata at just 1000-pound or Rs 1-lakh a pop?
India’s non-resident ambassador to Haiti, C. Rajasekhar, doesn’t say. But he tells the interesting story of the genesis of the Indian house-building project in Haiti. When he offered Haiti’s President Martelly a cheque for five-million dollars as India’s contribution towards reconstruction, Sweet Mickey apparently told Mr Rajasekhar, “don’t give me the money, give me the houses.”
Enter the Indian company responsible for completing the pilot project (10,000 houses) in northern Sri Lanka as part of India’s commitment to re-house 50,000 displaced Tamils at a total cost of roughly 270 million dollars. It’s expected to conclude by October 2015.
India must know what it’s doing to be able to do so much, relatively cheaply. Haiti could use some of that to, as the lingo goes, “build back better”.