Mercedes Gonzalez Amade
HAVANA TIMES — I won’t be writing about the basic elements a house designed for disabled people should have. I’m not asking for so much. My complaint has to do with the extremely limited options those of us who want a roof over our heads have.
When I look at the country’s housing laws, I realize they have modified a number of these to give people more options to acquire a home. These changes, however, do not favor me or many other people I know. As is almost always the case, the most vulnerable tend to be the most affected by these reforms.
Now, the State is entitled to sell lots. Those interested in buying such lots must approach a commission. Most of the time, we don’t know who chairs these commissions. We also don’t know how many people are after the same lot.
One would assume that, once that battle has been won, you should have the money needed to pay for the property. Prices, however, are well beyond the reach of low-income people like myself, who receive a pension. The house must be built within one year. In other words, one not only has to buy the lot, but also all of the building materials, which have to be hauled to the spot of one’s future home.
Another option is to buy unused locales, such as former stores, dairies, a warehouse and others. These are also requested via a commission, but, here, those who lost their homes (because these collapsed or threaten to collapse) have priority, if not exclusive rights. Any refurbishing has to be financed by the applicant. Sometimes, the State subsidy for the purchase of building materials can help, but, if I was ever given any of these locales, how would I be able to afford the needed materials, let alone transport them and pay for the construction work, all with that just one subsidy? We know the country is making an effort in this connection, but it isn’t enough, it’s only a slight push. One can’t build anything on that, you would need another source of income, and next to no disabled person has that.
In Marianao, the neighborhood where I live, the new, large, pretty and varied homes I see belong to military and high government officials, and the municipal government cannot make use of any of them.
I know of many in need of houses who are told by the Housing Bureau that they have nothing to offer them and that their files are stored, till “further notice.” These people have no choice but to resign themselves to an endless wait, as it is the municipal office in their neighborhood that must give them a definitive answer.
During my time at the Cuban Association for People with Physical and Motor Impairments (ACLIFIM), I’ve come across cases worse than mine. At least I still feel strong enough to continue fighting, but there are disabled persons who are elderly, live alone and in conditions no one would believe possible. The solutions being offered by the government do not help us. They haven’t been conceived for people with special needs, but for the great majority that has no physical impediments. This is all fine and good, but, don’t we also have the right to improve our quality of life? Or is that they do not consider us a part of society?