By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 3 — A major change in Cuba’s property law was announced on Thursday. For the first time in decades, citizens and permanent foreign residents can now buy and sell houses or apartments and they will be permitted to have an additional vacation home.
While some feel the measure, which takes effect on Nov. 10, will increase class differences in the country and favor those Cubans with family abroad for investment cash, the positive aspects of allowing people to do as they wish with their property has been widely demanded.
The new law appears in the official Gazette and modifies the General Housing Law of 1988. Besides regulations for buying and selling property and the corresponding taxes, the law establishes standards for donating or inheriting property.
In addition to the right to buy and sell property and to own a vacation home, Cubans will now be allowed to legally trade properties, with one party compensating the other; donate property, and leave property in a will.
In their report on the new property rules, the New York Times quoted Pedro Freyre, an expert in Cuban-American legal relations who teaches at Columbia Law School, who commented: “To say that it’s huge is an understatement… This is the foundation, this is how you build capitalism, by allowing the free trade of property.”
However, journalist Damien Cave added in the same NYT article: “Cuban officials would disagree; they argue that they are carefully protecting socialism as they move toward economic reform, and the new law includes some provisions that seem aimed at controlling both speculation and the concentration of wealth. Owners will be limited to two homes (a residence and vacation property) and financing must go through Cuba’s Central bank, which will charge fees, which have not been determined. Beyond that, a tax of 8 percent will be split by the buyer and seller.”
For details, see the official document posted (in Spanish) in the Gaceta Oficial. We will publish an English version as soon as this becomes available.