US housing effort in Haiti falls short

A US project to provide badly-needed housing for hundreds of thousands of Haitians left homeless by a 2010 earthquake has failed to live up to its promise and went over budget, a government audit said Tuesday.

The Office of the Inspector General for the US Agency for International Development said only 816 of the planned 4,000 houses had been built as of August in Haiti's devastated capital Port-au-Prince.

The USAID/Haiti mission had initially expected the construction to be completed by December 2012 and cost $55 million.

The plan also included 11,000 home sites -- with partners set to pay for construction of homes on the sites -- and equipping these with basic services and infrastructure. But only 2,300 were built.

In order to meet its housing goals, USAID/Haiti increased funding from $55 million to $90 million and extended the completion date to October 2014, according to the audit.

However, the mission had only approved construction contracts for 906 houses as of July 2013 and issued no contracts to provide basic services and infrastructure to the home sites. Current contracts only provide engineering services at 6,220 home sites.

The construction delays were blamed on land tenure disputes, design changes, protests, a shortage of willing partners and an emphasis on using local labor and products.

Four years after the violent earthquake, the deeply impoverished nation is still struggling to recover from the widespread devastation that killed 250,000 people.

The tragedy originally left about a million people homeless.

Four years on, nearly 200,000 people are still living in dire conditions in temporary shelters, and residents complain of having received little help since most NGOs left the country.