My Father’s Home Repair Subsidy

Osmel Almaguer

Building materials are scarce. Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — In December of last year, my father applied for a construction subsidy from the Head Municipal Housing Office in Habana del Este. Zuleidys, the secretary who saw him, told him not to have over realistic expectations, that they had granted very few such subsidies recently.

I, who had gone with him, told him not to lose hope, that “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Something told me, however, that we wouldn’t be able to solve our housing repair problems this way, and so it was. To date, no one has even come around the house to carry out the needed evaluation.

In February this year, Maggie, another Housing Office employee, called my father and told him she was responsible for evaluating the property, but that we needed to find transportation for her, because of how far the house was.

Annoyed at this, my dad told her the truth: that we didn’t have a car or the money to rent one. I then had the idea that we could use the motorcycle from my mom’s work. The bike isn’t supposed to be used for such things, but everyone does it.

I told Maggie we could pick her up on the motorcycle, and she said it would have to be at her house in Guanabacoa. Her attitude struck me as more than petulant, but I wanted to help out my dad, who’s old, and lives in a house that’s even older.

We agreed to arrange for picking her up one day before I was leaving for the Central Cuban province of Ciego e Avila. I’d planned everything like clockwork. It would be a question of picking her up and taking her back. Hours before the agreed time, however, Maggie phoned me to cancel the appointment, saying she was “tied up.”

When I returned from Ciego de Avila, I phoned the number she’d given me. A woman picked up and told me Maggie didn’t live there anymore. And that’s that, that’s all she wrote. We’ve been waiting for her or any other Housing Office employee to call us ever since, but to no avail. My father even complained at the Communist Party’s Municipal Office, but his complaint has had no repercussions.

The construction subsidy was one of the initiatives implemented by Raul Castro almost immediately after he came to power. The building of thousands of homes has been completed this way, through people’s personal efforts and money, and the State’s said “subsidy.” This way, the State can report many more homes have been built thanks to it.

However, like everything else in this country, everything that starts out fairly well ends up in the gutter. The subsidy still exists, but very few people actually benefit from it these days. Those responsible for making this mechanism work either become corrupt or lazy.

2 thoughts on “My Father’s Home Repair Subsidy

  • The elderly man whose life was wasted under communism probably cheered when Castro marched into Havana in January, 1959.

  • Its Cuba!………………………and a typical cynical exercise by the Castro family regime. There is a city in Cuba where a very substantial number of single houses and two storey apartments are being built for the military – there is always plenty of money for that sector of the population. I know of a family who have the financial support necessary to construct a house using family labour and have purchased a site. They submitted the plans and application in November and still await permission six months later. Yet another example of the efficiency level of the regimes bureaucratic system.

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