Land tenure issues in Haiti severely hamper the development of commercial and industrial projects and of marginalized informal settlements in both urban and rural areas. These communities are historically disenfranchised and have been excluded from access to basic planning and services, which further increases their vulnerability to natural disasters. In addition, women, despite being considered the potomitan (pillars) of Haitian society, are held back from advancing because their access to land is restricted by inequitable customary practices.
In June 2011, Architecture for Humanity, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and with support from the Digicel Foundation, helped found the Haiti Property Law Working Group, or HPLWG, comprising more than 100 stakeholders working to create a series of land transaction manuals to support Haiti as it deals with long-standing land issues. By explaining legal procedures and land rights in an accessible manner, these manuals improve the transparency of this system, foster efficiency and equity in access to land and rights, and promote urban resilience and sustainable economic growth.
The first volume, “A How-to Guide for the Legal Sale of Property in Haiti” was published in French and English in January 2013. It garnered participation and endorsements from USAID, the government of Haiti, the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Department of Canada (formally CIDA), the French Embassy, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, and many others. Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe praised the manual as a great example of public-private cooperation.
The second volume, “Securing Land Rights in Haiti,” has been drafted and will be completed in 2014. This manual will address ownership, leasehold, rent-to-own and other rights (for example, “petite prescription”) on public and private land. The scope includes urban and rural areas, adverse possession, and property subdivision due to
inheritance and by agreement. The manual is intended to provide a legal blueprint for addressing the rights of
property owners and informal settlers. Members of the HPLWG overlap with members of several resettlement
groups, and the HPLWG is taking steps to make sure its work is aligned and complementary.
The second manual is expected to have a much bigger potential impact and should help with:
• Securing tenure for informal settlements existing before the earthquake;
• The resettlement of camp dwellers;
• Housing programs after the quake;
• The use of housing and land as collateral down the road for housing micro-finance;
• Securing land rights for investment in commercial projects, including in the tourism and industrial sectors;
• Land conflicts with regards to inheritance and absentee ownership;
• Creating multifamily housing with co-ownership rights.
For more information on the HPLWG including publications and upcoming events, please visit our website www.landlaws.org.