Most landlords, and the lawyers who represent them, claim not to rent to foreigners
In December 2021, Alexandra and her husband made a difficult decision: she would move to the Dominican Republic. The former bank employee in Haiti was pregnant at the time, and the stress of life in Port-au-Prince was unbearable, in addition to being harmful to the unborn child. A fuel shortage, which had already lasted five months, made the situation even more uncertain.
Soon, Alexandra faced her first challenge in the neighboring country: finding a place to live. For several months, she has not been able to find a place to live as the date of her delivery approached. She does not speak Spanish, which is another obstacle to her plans.
The stress of life in Port-au-Prince was unbearable, in addition to being harmful to the unborn child.
After several disappointments, she finally found an apartment in a residence in Santo Domingo. Not surprisingly, the landlord was reluctant to rent to a foreigner, a Haitian, who did not have a DR residency card. “It was my husband who came to sort everything out, because he has a U.S. green card. Even though he was a foreigner, it was easier for him.”
Thanks to this, Alexandra and her husband ended up renting the apartment for $300 a month with a three-month deposit. She still lives there with her baby, who was born just a few days before she moved into her new home.
Not all Haitians are as fortunate and finding housing in the Dominican Republic has become a challenge for those who travel to the country. Most landlords, and the lawyers who represent them, say they do not rent to foreigners.
Finding housing in the Dominican Republic has become a challenge for those who travel to the country.
“Right now, I’m not going to say it’s impossible for a Haitian to find a house to rent, but it’s a real problem. Not renting to Haitians was a rumor at first, but it quickly spread. It’s like it’s official now”, says Belfort Frantz, a Spanish teacher. Fortunately, he is no longer a tenant, as a family member bought a house in Santo Domingo, where he lives.
Annie, a young Haitian woman who has lived in the neighboring republic for several years, confirms that it’s difficult to put a roof over her head. She herself has given up trying to find another house, larger than the one she lives in now, after being turned down several times for houses she was interested in. “When they say foreigners, they really mean Haitians. I meet all the requirements. I have a job, and I’m here legally. But I’m Haitian and that’s the problem. I’ve been turned down before because of that.”
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A few years ago, it was not as difficult to find housing. For Belfort, the difficulty has increased along with the anti-Haitian sentiment that runs through the country.
When they say foreigners, they really mean Haitians.
As the supply of housing for Haitians is reduced while demand continues to rise, the level of sacrifice that a Haitian without a Dominican residency must make to be housed has become significant: in some areas of Santo Domingo, rents have increased for irregular Haitians; the rental contract offered to them contains more requirements than the Dominican one. For example, the value of the security deposit they must pay is greater.
W. L. moved to the neighboring land in April 2021. He was fortunate to find an apartment in a residence in Los Girasoles. He pays $400 USD each month. “Living here is much more expensive than if I rented a house in Haiti.”
Belfort Frantz and W. L. believe that Dominican landlords and lawyers are taking advantage of the Haitians’ status to extract more money from them. “They know that many are illegal, so they won’t want to claim their rights”, analyzes the Spanish teacher.
The rental contract offered to them contains more requirements than the Dominican one.
Annie does not believe that Haitians are particularly paying more. Real estate prices have gone up, she explains. “Every year the rent goes up 10%, she says. And where I live, it’s the same for everyone.”
In April 2022, in fact, the president of the Dominican Association of Builders and Housing Developers, Jorge Montalvo, announced an increase in prices in the construction sector, due to inflation caused in part by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
The cost per square meter in the area increased by 28.3%. Family homes of one to four floors, as is often found in the “residencias”, were the most affected.
The cost per square meter in the area increased by 28.3%.
Annie admits, however, that if they are undocumented, Haitians are more easily preyed upon by greedy lawyers, who raise the price of rent more than it is. “The hardest part is that there is always a Haitian who helps them with their package”, she laments.
The most controversial practice, involving Haitians, according to W. L., has become common in a neighborhood called Ciudad Juan Bosch. “Since it’s hard to find a house, some people rent out a room to their compatriots and charge them almost the entirety of what the apartment costs them per month. This has spread quickly”, reveals the former customer advisor of a company in Haiti.
The reluctance on the part of owners also comes from some bad experiences they’ve had with Haitian tenants. Annie and Belfort believe this to be true. “Sometimes when some people move out, they leave behind a lot of filth, and damages in the house. When in the home, they sometimes make a lot of noise. I’ve seen some really objectionable behavior with my own eyes.” In the residences, none of this is well received. The management committees often complain about this, and it leads to the exclusion of tenants from Haiti.
However, all is not so bleak. Even in the midst of the anti-Haitian wave, in some residences the roommates are friendly, even warm. “Even though they suspect I’m Haitian, people say hello to me when they see me, says Alexandra. When my baby was only a few months old, he cried a lot. Neighbors would often come knocking on the door, asking me if he was okay, and giving me advice on motherhood.”
English translation by Didenique Jocelyn and Sarah Jean.
© Cover photo : Safari Consoler/pexels