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We are supporting a community in a warehouse after a hurricane to return to their homes in the same urban district. How can we ensure our support is equitable, for groups who own their homes and groups who are illegally settled?

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Thank you for your question. It is important to intervene carefully in a community where existing tensions may exist and where the displacement of the community has the potential to become politically divisive.

First, make sure you have access to specialist advisers with knowledge of housing, land and property rights (HLP) and conflict sensitivity. You may find organisations who were working in the area before the hurricane have not only these skills, but are also familiar with specific local issues.

Next you will need to check key issues on the critical path in order to plan the process of your support. These may include:

• The length of time families can stay in the warehouse. Who owns the warehouse and are they under pressure to move the families out?

• The state of the families’ existing houses. How badly damaged are they? What sort of repairs are needed and will they take a long time?

• Which other short term shelter solutions are available if families cannot stay in the warehouse or move back to their homes immediately?

• What are the usual local tenure arrangements and how long will it take to facilitate these?

If families can stay in the warehouse in the short term they may need additional NFIs to ensure they have adequate privacy. An agreement with the owner for continued use of the warehouse may be needed.

If families can start to move back to their houses, they may need materials and tools to repair their houses. If the markets are working they may only need cash or vouchers to purchase what they need. One way to ensure equity is to base any distribution on the physical state of the houses, regardless of the status of ownership. However, if permanently repairing illegally built houses is controversial, you may choose to distribute materials for temporary repairs only in the short term, such as plastic sheet, so that tensions are managed while negotiations take place in the longer term.

If some families can repair their homes quickly, they could be asked to host less fortunate families. This type of arrangement needs careful planning with the advisers mentioned above, but if successful could improve relations between the two community groups.

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