Housing Construction In Cuba Remains Very Slow / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 3 January 2017 – This week Luisa
Bermejo’s biggest headache will be getting the rebar she’s lacking. For
months she’s been piling up stacks of cement, bricks and other materials
to build an improvised room in the Cerro district of Havana. If she’s
lucky she’ll soon finish her house built with her own efforts, in a year
when the state plans to build fewer than 10,000 houses on the entire island.
The authorities recognize that the housing problem is the primary social
need in Cuba – analysts estimate the deficit at some 600,000 homes – but
in the last decade the number of homes built has fallen by 20%. In 2006,
there was a historic peak of 111,373 housing units erected, but by the
end of 2015 the total barely exceeded 23,000, more than half of which
were built through private efforts.
With the gloomy economic announcements in the last session of the
National Assembly, alarms have also been set off about the development
of the housing fund in the short and medium term. In his speech to the
parliamentarians, Minister of Economy and Planning Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz
declared that in the next twelve months the state will only finish some
The areas prioritized for the new buildings coincide with the five
municipalities affected by Hurricane Matthew in its passage across
Guantanamo province, a region where more than 38,000 homes were totally
or partially destroyed, and for which the government is raising
international aid to rebuild them.
The Alaves Emergency Fund, established by the Provincial Council of
Alava and the Municipality of Vitoria, in Spain’s Basque Country, just
announced it will allocate 52,000 euros for schools and workplaces in
the area of Cuba affected by the hurricane, but foreign aid is barely a
drop in the ocean of Cuba’s housing deficit.
The difficult situation facing thousands of families has led many to
stop waiting for the state’s construction plans – in the style of those
undertaken in the years of the Soviet subsidy – and to seek their own
solutions. A tortuous road, where the obstacles range from getting the
materials to the cost of labor.
Luisa, 61, lived for six years in a place that she, her two daughters
and her husband sneaked into. “There was no bathroom and we had to see
to our needs in a can and empty it every day,” she tells 14ymedio. With
the 2011 enactment of the law that allows the buying and selling of
houses , Bermejo acquired a small piece of land near Sports City, with a
rickety wooden house on it
These last three years she has dedicated to construction, spending full
time locating and acquiring the materials for the house, supervising the
brick layers and making with her own hands everything from formwork to
mortar. “We are living amid dust and sacks, but at least it’s mine,” she
reflects. So far, she has spent 2,000 Cuban Convertible pesos, a
decade’s worth of the salary from her former job as a teacher, from
which she retired a couple of years ago.
At the beginning of the century, Vice President Carlos Lage was the
official functionary in charge of the housing program. The goal, in
those years, was to build 150,000 houses a year to relieve the problem.
Luisa hoped to benefit from an apartment in a microbrigade building
built by a social contingent, but the brief economic flourishing the
island experienced with aid from Venezuela was extinguished shortly
“We realize we have to solve this problem ourselves,” she comments.
Shortly afterwards, Lage was ousted and no other face of the government
took on the public commitment to families needing a roof.
Instead, in the middle of last year, Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, also
vice-president of the Councils of States and of Ministers, made it clear
that the solution to the housing problem in the country resides “in
Despite the attention, the result is insufficient. The retired teacher
is now worried about problems with the supply of construction materials,
with the east of the island given priority, according to decisions made
in the capital. “We have a lot of problems getting pipes and everything
related to electrical installation,” she explains. She also needs
“tiles, concrete glue and gravel.”
Since last November, there have been weeks of shortages of building
materials in Havana, a situation that could slow even further the
completion of construction projects. But Luisa seems determined to
finishing her own personal plan. “This year my bathroom and my own
shower, even if I have to tile it with my own hands.”
Source: Housing Construction In Cuba Remains Very Slow / 14ymedio,
Zunilda Mata – Translating Cuba –