Dominican Republic -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
View of "El Barrio de la Playa," or "The Neighborhood on the Beach." This is a large shantytown built on a government owned beach in Nagua, Dominican Republic. The government placed large concrete blocks in the water to break the waves and lessen the effects of the weather. Nonetheless, the shacks are extremely vulnerable to the elements, with residents often being forced to rebuild their homes from the scraps after they are destroyed by a tropical storm or hurricane.
A Habitat house in a development called El Factor in Nagua, Dominican Republic.
Habitat for Humanity’s first 53 houses in the Dominican Republic were built in 1989, in los Cocos in the Barahona province.
HFH-DR has built in nine zones: Barahona, Paraíso, Polo, Jaquimeyes, Tamayo, Nagua, San Juan de la Maguana, San Francisco de Macorísand the city of Santo Domingo.
In these regions, people live in houses made of wood, palm trees or discarded materials, which are roofed with rusty corrugated tin sheets. In many cases, there are two families living in just one house, and it is not uncommon to find grandparents, parents and children living in the same room and sharing beds.
There are different housing solution models, depending on the family’s needs and financial capacity:
- 50m² houses have a living-dining room, a kitchen, three bedrooms and a bathroom, with an average cost of RD $300,000 (approximately US$8,800).
- 42m² houses have a living-dining room, a kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom, with an average cost of RD $260,000 (approximately US$7,500).
- 36m² houses have a living-dining room, a kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom, with an average cost of RD $240,000 (approximately US$6,800).
- Multifamily housing with 4 apartments. Each apartment has 52 m² distributed in a living-dining room, a kitchen, three bedrooms and a bathroom, with an average cost of RD $390,000 (US $11,000).
The houses are repaid in 5 to 12 years. For complete housing, the maximum average monthly payment is RD$3,500 (US$106), which is much more affordable than the cost of renting living quarters in poor conditions. The housing repairs have an average monthly payment of RD$1,500.00 (US$ 45). We repair floors, roofs, bathrooms, security grates, secure hurricane shelters, room additions, water supply lines, etc.
The following materials are used in construction: blocks, cement, iron rods, sand and gravel. These materials are weather-resistant, since there are annual hurricane threats from July to November. These materials can be easily purchased in the country, although at a very high price.
The most recent official studies (1997) highlight that the housing deficit in the Dominican Republic is estimated at 600,000 units, and 55 percent of this deficit is poor quality housing rather than homelessness.
According to the figures provided by the United States Agency for International Development, in 1998, Hurricane George worsened the problem even more, as it increased the number of families living in substandard conditions to over 700,000.
Data from the National Housing Institute reveal that at least 49,000 houses were totally destroyed and 121,000 others were damaged and in need of repair. The greatest percentage of this deficit is found in the country’s southwestern zone.
In the countryside, there is a great amount of substandard housing. Most of the houses are made of “tejamanil" (a soil and manure mixture). There are also some made of wood, but in poor condition, and even others made out of empty oil drum tins. Many of these houses have dirt floors that constitute a health risk, due to the constant dust they create and the rodents and insects that they invite. The overall unsanitary conditions affect children the most.
Each day it is more difficult for low-income families to acquire a decent house. Their monthly income does not allow them to save the purchase price of a house and bank loans are granted at a very high interest rate. Another issue is land ownership. While many families have built their homes and lived on the same land for years, they do not have the deed to it, since, oftentimes, the property belongs to the state, a company or institution. Plus, these properties lack basic infrastructure. In many cases, paved roads, potable water, electric power, sewage systems and garbage disposal and collection are almost non-existent, especially in rural zones. Often, the only land available is marginal on steep slopes or in ravines, where the inhabitants are in danger from flash flooding and mudslides.
Location: West Indies
Climate: tropical maritime
Economy: industry includes tourism, export of ferronickel, sugar, gold, coffee, cocoa
Religion: predominantly Christian
Literacy: 84 percent