“The thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that the political situation has been bad—there’s been unrest and political corruption—for decades,” Lafci said. If anything, the situation is worse now than it was at the time of the 2010 quake.
“People are out in the streets fighting for their rights or for food they desperately need,” she added, “but it means there are times when the roads are blocked and our construction workers can’t even get onto the job site.” The three hardships inevitably feed off each other, as a new disaster leads to more economic woes and political upheaval. To remain effective during this tragic cycle, Lafci said, New Story prioritizes working with local leaders who have expertise and are respected in the area. “One of the big reasons relief efforts failed in 2010 was they didn’t look to local leaders. These big multinational organizations want to do good but they sweep in and can’t navigate in these complex regions.” Since 2017, New Story has partnered with Architectural Digest to build a new development near Titanyen, a rural village about 11 miles north of Port-au-Prince. Titanyen is a special place, Lacfi said—thousands killed by the 2010 quake were buried there. “The village took on a stigma,” she said, “Locals called it ‘less than nothing.’”
Eventually, though, thousands of the 1.5 million Haitians displaced by the earthquake were relocated to a vast unused stretch of land east of Titanyen and housed in small, temporary structures built by the U.S. Navy and the United Nations. Those encampments were never intended to be permanent. Now New Story is working to reshape Titanyen’s future with safe, affordable, and permanent housing.
“The people living in tent encampments there have no opportunities—giving them the chance to work is incredible,” Lafci said. “As part of their collaboration, Architectural Digest and New Story have committed to building 100 homes in Titanyen. Lacfi was happy to report that, as of this month, things are, miraculously, still moving ahead. “After the assassination and the earthquake, we thought all the work would be on pause,” she said. “But they’re continuing to work on it. Our initial projection was having the homes done by the end of the year. We’re still looking to update projections given the circumstances, but everyone is still motivated to meet that goal.”
“Roofing, masonry, and plumbing are in progress, and doors are being shipped in,” she added. “Once we get the doors we can do interiors, which is the final step.” Thankfully the pandemic hasn’t halted progress on the AD100 city either. “Construction was deemed an essential service,” Lafci said, “so we could get back up and running pretty quickly.”