Cuba Relaxes Some Housing Regulations

by Cafe Fuerte

Construccion-displayHAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government has announced a series of measures aimed at restructuring the country’s current housing system and authorizing the building of dwellings on roofs, empty lots and State-owned land by the population.

The special issue of Cuba’s Official Gazette published this past Friday made public Council of State Decree Law 322/2014, a new legislation that substantially modifies the General Housing Law, in effect since 1988, and seeks to simplify the legal norms governing applications by citizens to request changes of address, the transfer of properties and individual construction work.

The legislation, signed by President Raul Castro on July 31, aims to “improve State housing services and reorganize housing-related activities, reassigning these to entities responsible for work hitherto governed by the National Housing Institute (INV).”

Urban Planning Control

This restructuring will involve the transfer of the INV’s chief functions to the Urban Planning Institute (IPF), presided by General Samuel Rodiles Planas, and to other State entities, such as the Ministries of Construction, Justice and Labor and Social Security and the Provincial and Municipal People’s Court system.

Following this government decision, the INV has become subordinate to the Ministry of Construction and is now tasked with directing, executing and enforcing State and government housing policy.

The Official Gazette also published seven complementary resolutions aimed at making the issuing of permits to the population more efficient, improving regional and urban organization and combatting illegal practices and construction work.

The legislative package will come into effect on January 5, 2015.

Assigning State lands to individuals or entities who request these for the building of homes, certifying that completed dwellings are habitable, approving procedures for technical reports used to value properties and transfer ownership of empty lots and flat roofs, are among the functions now taken on by the IPF.

Land Assignation

The new provisions will regulate the sale, purchase, donation and exchange of empty State lots.

The IPF will be empowered to assign State lots to individuals in need of these for the building of homes. The lot assigned will have to meet basic urban planning requirements, such that individuals may begin construction on these immediately.

“The Municipal Urban Planning Office, in cases approved by the Municipal Administrative Council and in accordance with the priorities established by the State, will be authorized to transfer ownership of State lots to individuals through the pertinent payments, giving these full rights over these properties, so that they may build homes in their jurisdiction, through the procedure to be established by the President of the Urban Planning Institute,” the Council of State Decree points out.

People who are assigned a State lot will be required to begin construction there within a year from purchase. Failing this, authorities will either extend the building permit for an additional year or decide to terminate the agreement, returning the amount paid.

Building on Flat Roofs

Those affected by natural disasters, people living in precarious conditions, welfare cases, those residing in State shelters or in earthquake or disaster-risk areas will be prioritized in the assignation of State lots.

Similarly, the transfer and use of flat roofs for the expansion of homes, through purchases and other mechanisms, will also be made more flexible.

“The owners of individual dwellings, dwellings located in buildings with several stories (where each story constitutes a single dwelling) and dwellings that are part of an apartment building, may, of mutual agreement, grant the owners of dwellings on the top floor the right to expand their homes, or grant a third party the right to build a new dwelling, in the flat roof of the building in question, provided it is technically feasible and does not violate any urban or regional regulations, following authorization from the Provincial Urban Planning Office,” the regulations specify.

The measures are aimed at alleviating Cuba’s housing deficit, calculated at 600,000 dwellings, and at encouraging individual construction efforts. According to official figures, a mere 26,634 new homes were built last year, the lowest figure registered since 2004. The most significant detail, however, is that nearly half (12,217) were built by the population, unaided by the State.

18 thoughts on “Cuba Relaxes Some Housing Regulations

  • I am glad to know of any additional homes for average Cubans. Although many of the existing homes are deplorable from the exterior, within you will find they are spotleslly clean inside as indeed are the Cubans themselves.
    The ‘casas’ have no hot water systems but recently it has become possible to purchase electric showers – our regulations in Canada would prohibit the exposed wiring, but it is a great improvement to have hot rather than cold showers. To get one we used to heat water in a pan and douse ourselves. It is possible using self labour in Cuba to construct a simple two bedroom casa for about 10-12000 CUC ‘s
    Construction with concrete blocks is simple.
    The main construction cost lies in the roof, floor, windows and doors. Cubans in general are fairly good with electric wiring and plumbing and most toilets and waste water are disposed by cess pits – even in some cities. One problem however is that of leaking public water supply pipes with evident leaks leading to mini streams on the streets.
    Finding a site can be difficult and is usually answered by building on the roof of another casa.
    I believe the housing shortage is about 600,000.

  • I can’t speak to who the houses were for. I actually assumed it was for people working in the tourist industry, considering the resort areas were pretty close by. I didn’t see any particularly opulent ones though. These really fit in, the same style as the old ones to the point that in a year or two when the salt air has time to do its work on the paint and concrete, you probably won’t be able to to tell which ones are the new ones.

    I also have no frame of reference for how this rate of renewal compares to the past 50+ years, as my personal observations of Cuba only began in 2010.

  • Some good spots Brrr. Our family has relations at Santa Cruz the town beside the oil field where the lonely Canadian flag flies at the Sherritt facility and I have travelled the road to and from Varadero through Matanzas and Habana four times this year, but my powers of observation must be declining as I failed to notice new developments. It’s 18 months since we were in Santa Clara but only 7 months since spending our annual week in Trinidad. On the outskirts of Trinidad we did see some new apartment blocks being constructed but nothing in Santa Clara.
    As I have previously indicated there are some new houses going up in our town – about 30 of them, but they are for the military and larger than the avarage Cuban can possess. In general there is a huge housing deficit and as property is now owned by those living in it, any increase in housing depends upon individual Cubans building it. That is a tall demand considering the average income. It does however conveniently shift the responsibility for the housing shortage off the shoulders of the regime where it has rested for fifty years.

  • This year I spent time between Havana and Varadero, as well as between Santa Clara and Remedios. Last year it was Santa Clara through Sancti Spiritus and on to Trinidad. Each of which were return visits from a few years previous.

  • “…but rather sincere discourse.” I could not be more sincere in my comments. In order for there to be the “discourse” you seek, I would need Castro sycophants on the other side to respond to my FACTS with better facts of their own. Instead, when I quote Cuba’s ONEI-published statistics regarding the housing deficit in Cuba, what I get back from Castro bootlickers is a comment about how bad Detroit is or a personal attack about me or my wife. I would relish a comment that either replaces my “facts” with better proven facts to the contrary OR interprets a fact like a housing deficit of up to 1 million dwellings to show a positive or constructive purpose in maintaining such a seemingly huge gap in the difference between housing supply and demand. You may find it tedious to hear again and again that there is a toilet paper shortage in Cuba but that does not mean that that reality does not exist. You may not want to read about Cuban hardships all the time but for the Cubans who suffer these hardships, your need to be entertained won’t put food on their table. I will beat this drum of what I think is wrong with Cuba until it stops being wrong. Sorry if you don’t like the beat. BTW, Socialism in Cuba really has failed. There is nothing “overarching” about that comment.

  • This is interesting, where abouts are the improvements you refer to taking place? In our town there are some new houses being built for the military but otherwise there is no change

  • Academic discourse does nothing for the people of Cuba. There are those who treat their plight as irrelevant caring naught for the reality. Yes, “Socialismo” as pursued by the regime in Cuba has failed. I hope that is sufficiently specific. As one whose home is in Cuba I can assure you that I too would welcome “developments that will help its people” and I too would love to see effective changed regulations. Socialismo is thrust down the throats of Cubans relentlessly day in day out, by TV, by Radio, by Granma (which despite what you read in these columns is occassionally read prior to the described other use). There is nothing you can do to encourage change in Cuba, all of us when contributing here on Havana Times are beating our heads against that proverbial brick wall. Moses Patterson I think and I do so because we want the truth – much of it ugly – to be given, we have personal family knowledge and experience in depth of Cuba and its people unlike casual tourist visitors who are regaled with semi romantic tales of Dr. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara the executioner of El Morro and the munificent Castro family. If you think that I despise dictatorship, socialism and communism then you are correct.

  • I have a job too. Reread my comment. I wrote that the media “did not fail” to report the facts from THIS tragedy. I know better than you that these sorts of racially-driven police-involved shootings are taking place all over the country against young black men and teenagers. If the news in any way implicated wrongdoing on the part of the government, Granma would not report it. It does happen in Cuba. Using your logic, if it isn’t reported by Granma, how do you know it doesn’t? Finally, my comment speaks to how the word “regime” is used as opposed to its literal definition. Where did YOU go to law school?

  • Messrs. Patterson and MacDuff, You have responded with the same generalized remarks you have made so many times before. You’d be more persuasive if you varied your content from the overarching “socialism has failed.” Do you want to sincerely address readers here or simply vent your anger and repeat yourself? Personally, I’m not seeking facile entertainment or romanticized views (and yes, unrelenting romanticism is just as tedious as unrelenting denouncement) but rather, sincere discourse. I care about Cuba, I want to look at it with some depth, and I want to follow developments that will help its people, not to read each article here as a confirmation of previously held views about this country’s socialism and leaders. In short, I too am glad to see these changed regulations.

  • Unfortunately, unlike you, have a job that requires my attention, and thus cannot respond to all your silly assertions. You and Carlyle will, as always, have the last word. But just let me say two things. You are wrong about the US media reporting police brutality. I read everything you do probably as far as the MSM go. But I also subscribe to a Communist newspaper. I’ve seen dozens of Micheal Brown type incidents reported there that I never see elsewhere. Why is that ? Are they made up stories ? How do you know if a story is reported or not if you don’t know of it’s existence beforehand ? Would a murder like that be reported by Granma ? Maybe, maybe not. The point is that kind of stuff doesn’t happen in Cuba. BTW, look up the origins of the word regime.

  • Anyone who has been going back to Cuba over the past few years can see that the housing situation is getting much better. I’m continually amazed at how much gets done in between my visits. There is still lots to do, but it’s great to see much is being done.

  • If you would prefer that I relax my “incessant uniformity of comments” in order to better entertain you, you’re outta’ luck. My comments reflect my Cuban reality. That reality is based upon living in Cuba, for the most part, as a Cuban. As a light-skinned African-American man, I was mistaken for Cuban everywhere I went in Cuba, especially by the police, until I began to speak. I dated and subsequently married a Cuban woman who at the height of her celebrity, was one of the most recognizable faces on morning television. The “uniformity” of my comments also reflects the uniformity of the problems facing Cubans. The Castros have seen to it that nearly everyone suffers equally from food shortages, crumbling public infrastructure, dysfunctional public transportation and declining health care and educational services. The handful of Castro elite who can escape these socialist failings have little contact with regular Cubans and certainly no contact with a yuma like me. Finally, if you find my “range of thought” tedious it probably because I don’t share comments which romanticize buildings that collapse and kill people. I don’t see the charm in having to use Granma as toilet paper and I know that most of those Cubans that smiled at you as you took pictures of them from the second deck of the double-decker HavanaTur tour bus, were smiling at you but thinking how they could turn 10 to 15 pesos cubano into a meal for their household that day. I am sorry if you find that tedious.

  • It may be that seeing a nation in bondage does not anger you. It may be that you consider average earnings of $20 per month sufficient for Cubans. It may be that you enjoy seeing the crumbling buildngs and infrastructure in Cuba perhaps regarding them as quaint. It may be that you consider the evident racism in Cuba as unimportant because that in the USA is even worse. It may be that you consider food rationing for others as progressive socialism. If so, then I deplore your views.
    Moses Patterson and I have I glean from his observations, several things in common, but perhaps the most important is that we are both married to Cubans and have an intimate knowledge of the country and the effects of the Castro family regime upon the people of Cuba. Obviously to us the problems of Cuba are not just matters of interest in an academic nuanced discussion by the ‘Che’ T shirt wearing socialist tourist types who can usually be seen en mass at Santa Clara.
    Both Moses Patterson and I in our writings continually address the reality of Cuba. Dragging in a succession of dead cats with ramblings about somebody named Brown’s gladioli being apparently pee’ed on by dogs in some place in the USA whilst deploring Moses Patterson’s mentioning the Cuban police brutality towards the Ladies in White who were carrying gladioli, by saying “fer Chrissake” may gain your sympathy, but not mine.
    Obviously your links with Cuba and Cubans are limited and you have no need to address reality. You will be glad to know that as I spend much of my time at home in Cuba my contributions are limited to when I am in Canada. In the not too distant future they will adjourn as Internet access is not possible when in Cuba. Its the Castro regime family policy of restricting information. No doubt the much admired Dan would respond by saying that there is greater restriction in Kim Jung Un’s North Korea.

  • I’m sympathetic to Dan’s comment while seeing that it’s a bit off-thread. I enjoy reading the varied voices in Havana Times posts, nuanced, wide-ranging, and interesting, yet I’m almost always let down by the incessant uniformity of comments in response by Moses Patterson and Carlyle MacDuff. It’s the one-note anger that becomes so tedious. I wish others besides them would comment, and with greater range of thought.

  • First of all, despite your puerile attempt to be ‘cute’, the Obama administration should hardly be referred to as a “regime”. This term is generally used to refer to totalitarian governments which certainly fits the Castros. Second, when local utilities in the US do cut off water and other public utilities to residents, albeit a sad event and always a hardship to the resident, it is by no means a surprise to the affected party. More needs to be done to ensure that living-wage jobs return to urban centers like Detroit, so that people can pay their utility bills on time but this is hardly a case of government repressing people for ideological reasons. The events in Ferguson disgust me. As an African-American with two boys who could one day be gunned down in the street and left to rot in the sun for hours the way Michael Brown was treated, I am doing all I can to make sure that the cops in my town are better-trained and better led to avoid this situation in San Francisco. Obama is not to be blamed for what happened in Ferguson. On the contrary, it will likely be his appointed Attorney General who finally brings justice to this tragedy. The mainstream media did not fail to reports the facts as they were released. Even so, the local law enforcement agencies seem to be dragging their feet in releasing the details of this shooting. Even Castro sycophants like you know if this had taken place in Cuba, Granma and Television Cubana would not be permitted to release the information that CNN has released in the Ferguson tragedy. This site is Havana Times. As I result, I choose to share my comments regarding the tyranny of the Castro regime. On a blog dedicated to racial injustice and human right abuses in the US, I would share my comments germane to those issues. HT is not the place to criticize the US.

  • Dan, the reason Moses writes about Cuba is that this Havana Times site is about Cuba. If you want a site about a place named Ferguson, then set one up if there isn’t one so that you can express your views without boring the other contributors. The fact that Socialist Cuba is a horrible failure, that the brave Ladies in White were persecuted at the instruction of the Castro family regime and the racism of Cuba are apparently not of interest to you, demonstrates your indifference to Cuba and its people. I for one am not willing to indulge your wish to avoid the topic of Cuba in favour of the problems of racism in the US and a bunch of gladiolas.
    What are your views upon the Scottish referendum for independence?

  • Is the government turning off the water to people who are in arrears, like is occurring in the Capitalist paradise of Detroit ? Is it better to live in a crumbling apartment w/ a barcoa, or in your car in a Walmart parking lot ? BTW Moses, with your constant concern about racism in Cuba, I was wondering about your view of the events in Ferguson. It was the flowers which brought you to mind. You never fail to illustrate the rigidity, paranoia and brutality of the Cuban state and you do it best with your patented line about the Ladies in White armed with gladiolas “fer Chrissake !”. So I was guessing that you must be outraged at the Obama regime for the way the police treated Micheal Brown’s gladiolas. You are aware I guess that the police forbade depositing any more flowers, ect. at the improvised memorial where that black kid was murdered, err, shot. They then stood guard over the spot w/ attack dogs which they allowed to urinate on the offerings. Later, they drove over everything w/ police cruisers. I read this in some mainstream newspaper, not the omnipresent Castro sycophant press. I request in advance your indulgence for temporarily veering from the topic of what a horrible failure Socialist Cuba is.

  • Worth repeating for the Castro sycophants who tend to gloss over the facts which cast a negative light on their socialist paradise. In Cuba, officially, the government reports a housing deficit of more than 600,00 single family dwellings. These same government officials privately report that number is closer to 1 million homes. The government also reports that more than 50% of ALL Cuban homes are in substandard condition. Of these substandard dwellings at least a third are structurally inhabitable yet lacking other choices, Cubans continue to live in them. Finally, in Havana, at least twice a month a multistory, multifamily housing structure collapses often resulting in the injury and death of one or more inhabitants. Not a pretty picture is it? Now this post comes along and tells us just what the Castros are doing about reversing this depressing situation. According to this post, the Castros only built a little over 14,000 homes last year to address the deficit of 1 million. So while tens of millions of dollars are being spent around the world by the regime this week to promote the Free the Cuban 5 campaign, the housing situation in Cuban worsens. While the Castro spent hundreds of millions of dollars to expand the still nearly vacant Port of Mariel, buildings continue to collapse and kill Cubans. Socialism in Cuba has failed. This post, like so many others, simply confirms this fact.

Comments are closed.