By Daniel Benitez (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — Acquiring a home in Cuba is a headache that not even the hundreds of medical doctors who traveled abroad to put together the needed money and government authorization are spared. Many of them have been waiting 10 years for their homes to be built.
Since the year 2000 and as part of a special program for medical doctors who worked in Venezuela, some 8 thousand homes were distributed across the country. Of these, 652 were assigned to doctors in the province of Holguin. Fifteen years later, however, 210 physicians continue to be denied a roof over their heads in the province.
According to a report published by the local weekly newspaper, the future home owners will need to arm themselves with plenty of patience, as the gradual allotment of these properties is a process that will last till 2022, meaning a nearly two-decade wait since receiving the green light for these construction efforts.
While the situation of those who are waiting for homes is distressing, many of the 442 doctors who were given the keys to an apartment (and who have since criticized the shabby construction work) are not too happy either.
Signs of Humidity
The director of the Grupo Empresarial de la Construccion (“Construction Company Group”) Dalberto Serrano explained that the main problem faced by these properties is water leakage: “There’s moisture between the pre-fabricated pieces and carpentry work because no insulating foam or silicone was used to build these buildings. Such materials are necessary for these types of structures.”
The company, responsible for executing the housing project (which has already invested 34.5 million Cuban pesos or around 1.7 million USD), has also received complaints over the color and durability of the floor tiles installed (most of them imported), which had to be replaced with Cuban-made tiles.
The list of problems doesn’t end there, however. Though the report does not clarify whether the 442 medical workers whose homes have been built are already living in these properties, what we do know is that none were granted legal ownership over the apartments, because the process was not carried out according to the law.
Legal irregularities, delays and red tape have turned the process into a real nightmare. In Holguin, dozens of these properties are still waiting for an approval known as a “Habitation Certificate.” Others await an inspection that was not carried out initially because “there was no mechanism to charge the medical doctors for it and other housing facilities for the population were prioritized,” Madelaine de la Peña Lopez, an investments official for the Housing Investment Unit explained.
That’s not the end of it. Paperwork without the authorizing signatures, addresses that were not updated and all manner of errors at all levels turned the dreams of these doctors into an endless nightmare.
A Distressing Investment
This has been a distressing investment of money and time, in four walls that they still cannot call their own.
The problem isn’t restricted to the province of Holguin. Last year, a group of 36 internationalist doctors from the municipality of Puerto Padre in Las Tunas told the official press of the disastrous condition of the apartments they were given upon their return from Venezuela, a situation that has worsened over the years, without any kind of response from the province’s government authorities.
The problem came to light after the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry for Construction and the Cuban Central Bank issued a series of resolutions aimed at transferring property over the houses to the medical doctors and guaranteeing payment – in cash or via bank transfers – for the properties built for medical professionals who had worked in Venezuela. According to the bank resolution, owners may pay for the homes assigned to them through deductions from their salaries or other incomes, but, “should the parties fail to make timely payments, the bank shall notify the pertinent Provincial Public Health Office so that the applicable measures may be implemented.”
The government has made an effort to collect due payments, but medical doctors who were assigned homes have protested over the high price of these properties, which have poor finishing in their construction, expansion or remodeling.