Looking to Rent in Havana (II)

Daisy Valera

HAVANA TIMES — Warning: I don’t believe that “complaining” is the prostitution of one’s character.

For this reason, and as a way of thanking all of the readers of Havana Times who have tried to help me, I’m writing this second part in an attempt to jump from complaining to reality.

First: I was only able to find a place to rent until September 10.

I’m living in a place out in Guanabacoa township, where only one bus goes by every 50 minutes. I’m not sure if the neighborhood is called El Roble or Caguairan.

Since the stove is located exactly four steps away from the bed, I get the idea that I’m living in Tokyo or vacationing in a Ministry of the Interior hotel.

I’m not one who gives up easily, I just don’t adapt. I’m not an active member in the ranks of cheap optimism.

I still think I’m screwed. I’m still looking for a place to rent in Havana.

Ok, that’s the end of whining section.
At the last congress of the Cuban communist Party, there were over 11,000 complaints related to the issue of housing in Cuba.

In November 2011 the government issued Executive Order 288 to legalize the buying and selling of housing, speed up home swaps and to facilitate “self-help” construction.
Soon we’ll be marking one year since that order took effect.

So what do we have?

As of June of this year, the State and Cooperative Sector (with all the necessary resources at its disposal) has built only 8,972 homes across the country (705 in Havana).
Individuals and families (chasing around after materials, lining up behind every load of lumber, paying in hard currency for cement and tiles) ended up building 4,719 self-help units (385 in Havana).

For those who want to object by saying that the government makes allocations towards health care and education, I’ll save them the comment:

Of the funding allocated towards the economy, 13.98% went for the construction of hotels and restaurants, while “Health, Education and Welfare” received a modest 3.59% of the total.

If we note that for the same period in 2010 they built 13,825 houses but only 13,691 this year, we can’t be very happy.

The situation doesn’t appear to be improving, and this directly affects those of us who are trying to rent to escape overcrowded conditions.

On the outskirts of the city, where the problems of transportation and food prices are sharpest, monthly rents can reach 40 CUCs (about $45 USD).

The owners of small apartments with barbacoas (installed second floors) in neighborhoods such as Cerro and 10 de October demand between 60 and 70 CUCs.

Finally, rents in the modern areas of the city (Playa, Nuevo Vedado and Vedado) can reach as much as 150 CUCs a month.

Obviously these amounts go far beyond the average Cuban wage of less than 20 CUCs a month.

Some measures could improve the current rental situation:
– Long waited-for wage increases
– A decrease in the high tax on rental revenue (a tax that promotes illegal activity and harms all those involved in renting).
– The provision of information about places for rent (on websites, in the press, etc.).

In the meantime, we’ll continue to perform our magic of everyday existence, counting on luck or waiting for the buildings of the ministries of Agriculture or Transportation to be converted into apartment buildings.

Note: The official statistics were taken from the National Statistics Office (ONE): www.one.cu/
“Construction in Cuba, selected indicators. January to June 2012.”
“Construction in Cuba, selected indicators. January to June 2011.”

 

Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.


6 thoughts on “Looking to Rent in Havana (II)

  • January 7, 2013 at 3:18 pm
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    If you look around, there is not a single country, under any political-economic system, that has been able or probably make a decent attempt to solve solved the lack of housing, nevermind “affordable housing”.

    Comparing NYC, HAVANA, RIO, Cairo etc, is just blah, blah, blah.

    State controled economy countries make a dissmal effort.
    So called free enterprise system is interested in returns in investment.
    That said, it appears that “greed” does a better job than “nationalistic intentions”

  • August 29, 2012 at 9:04 pm
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    Let’s decode ‘Moses’ second missive. Previously I decoded “affordability is the only real problem in NYC” to “only the rich are guaranteed residency”. Now I’ll decode “In NYC you can have enough money to pay the rent advertised and the landlord still has a long line of applicants to choose from.” At first glance it seems to contradict the previous statement.

    First, a little background. New York famously has rent control, where prices are regulated to keep apartments affordable. Quoting Wikipedia, it began in 1943, is the longest-running in the United States and the only large US city that has strong rent control laws. Sounds good, but there’s more.

    Toronto briefly had rent control in the 80’s but the real estate industry relentlessly worked to kill it off. Prices in the city are now sky high and it has become unaffordable for many to live downtown and they have to spend endless hours commuting each weekday.

    The real estate industry in NYC has also finally succeeded in killing rent control. Since 1971, if you move out of a rent-controlled apartment, it is no longer under rent control. Less than 2% are left. That’s how capitalism works. Sooner or later, with all the power, the 1% find a way to make even more money at the expense of the rest of us. ‘Moses’ continually ‘forgets’ to state this. Oh, I forgot, he’s a propaganda artist, not an objective writer.

    Now for the second decoding. “In NYC you can have enough money to pay the rent advertised and the landlord still has a long line of applicants to choose from” decodes to “In NYC you can have enough money to pay the rent advertised ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING and the landlord still has a long line of applicants to choose from.” The rich, of course don’t have a problem.

    It always amazes me how devious propagandists can be.

  • August 29, 2012 at 12:18 pm
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    Sophistry at work yet again posted under the name of ‘Moses’. He writes that “affordability is the only real problem in NYC”. In other words, only the rich are guaranteed residency. In Havana, with empty buildings “in need of major repairs”, money to repair them would come from overseas capital in ‘Moses’ scheme of things who then dictate rental prices, affordability becomes the problem and only the rich are guaranteed residency.

    Oh, and the profits go overseas. That’s how both capitalism and imperialism works. Sounds like short term gain for long term pain to me. But ‘Moses’ doesn’t care, at long as he comes out ahead. That’s also how capitalism works.

    Let’s decode ‘Moses’ second missive. Previously I decoded “affordability is the only real problem in NYC” to “only the rich are guaranteed residency”. Now I’ll decode “In NYC you can have enough money to pay the rent advertised and the landlord still has a long line of applicants to choose from.” At first glance it seems to contradict the previous statement.

    First, a little background. New York famously has rent control, where prices are regulated to keep apartments affordable. Quoting Wikipedia, it began in 1943, is the longest-running in the United States and the only large US city that has strong rent control laws. Sounds good, but there’s more.

    Toronto briefly had rent control in the 80?s but the real estate industry relentlessly worked to kill it off. Prices in the city are now sky high and it has become unaffordable for many to live downtown and they have to spend endless hours commuting each weekday.

    The real estate industry in NYC has also finally succeeded in killing rent control. Since 1971, if you move out of a rent-controlled apartment, it is no longer under rent control. Less than 2% are left. That’s how capitalism works. Sooner or later, with all the power, the 1% find a way to make even more money at the expense of the rest of us. ‘Moses’ continually ‘forgets’ to state this. Oh, I forgot, he’s a propaganda artist, not an objective writer.

    Now for the second decoding. “In NYC you can have enough money to pay the rent advertised and the landlord still has a long line of applicants to choose from” decodes to “In NYC you can have enough money to pay the rent advertised ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING and the landlord still has a long line of applicants to choose from.” The rich, of course don’t have a problem.

    It always amazes me how devious propagandists can be.

  • August 27, 2012 at 5:54 pm
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    Luis, in NYC (and I am told Tokyo) even the rich can go wanting for housing. In NYC, you can have enough money to pay the rent advertised and the landlord still has a long line of applicants to choose from. In these situations, racism, sexism, ageism even “beauty-ism” can play a role in who gets the apartment.

  • August 27, 2012 at 3:49 pm
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    So much different from our State capital, São Paulo. Moses, are you sure there’s no immobiliary speculation in NYC? Tell me more. Because in São Paulo there are more empty buildings than homeless people! Trust me, I am not kidding.

    And what do you have to say about the housing ‘bubble’ that started the current global crisis back in 2008?

    “Affordable housing was (and still is) very difficult to be had in the Big Apple. There is, however, one big difference, between the two cities. In New York, every conceivable space available is converted to living space if possible.”

    In other words, there is plenty of housing in NYC… for the rich.

  • August 27, 2012 at 2:53 pm
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    Daisy’s plight is reminiscent of my own adventures in New York City in the late 80’s. Affordable housing was (and still is) very difficult to be had in the Big Apple. There is, however, one big difference, between the two cities. In New York, every conceivable space available is converted to living space if possible. There are very, very few empty buildings in NYC. In Havana, because of the closed economy, there are scores of empty or seriously underutilized spaces that would make for awesome living spaces if converted or restored. In NYC, private capital, ever on the lookout for a chance to turn a profit can convert old factories into artists lofts seemingly overnight. Affordability is the only real problem in NYC, not availability. In Cuba, because the State must control everything, gorgeous former hotels, office and apartment buildings line the Malecon. Most of these buildings are empty and in need of major repairs while Daisy and thousands like her live in cramped, expensive and many times unsafe conditions. Cuban experts estimate a deficit of at least 600,000 housing units in Cuba, At a pace of 13,000 new units a year as expressed in the post, I don’t this is a problem that will be solved anytime soon.

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