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Housing Shortage in Cuba
Wednesday, June 29, 2005   By: Juan Paxety

A plan for housing

So now, with the United Nations in town for a sustainable development conference (National Campaign on the Improvement of Our Cities and Homes), Cuba has decided it has a housing shortage. Maybe some of the delegates are seeing something like this (thanks to


The Guardian Unlimited reports:

Cuba said it was facing a massive housing shortage Tuesday and must build a half million homes over the next decade to deal with the crisis, according to a government report.

The National Housing Institute said in a report released at a conference this week that despite the need for about 50,000 new homes a year, only about 15,000 were built during 2004.

CNN reports:

According to the report, some 43 percent of Cuban housing is in mediocre or poor shape. Population growth, tropical weather and poor maintenance contribute to the crisis.

The average cost of building a house in communist Cuba is $8,000, with rehabilitation of an existing home costing about $1,000, the report said.

Both articles go on to repeat the government's claim that housing is better now than under Batista, as though the only alternative to castro is another dictator. You can judge for yourself by looking at some photos of Havana, BC (before castro).

Even a tourist trap, uh, attraction such as Ernest Hemingway's house has been allowed to fall into disrepair.

This is a good example of what happens under a collectivist, authoritarian system. No one owns their own property, so no one takes responsibility for its repair. The government requires its authority to get anything done, and since its impossible for any government to micro manage everything, nothing gets done. The result is the photographs above of what was once one of the most beautiful cities in the Americas.

Of course fidel blames the housing problem on the "U.S. blockade" and the Helms-Burton act. This how Periodico26 reports it:

Just when the 1996 UN Conference on Human Settlements was highlighting the tragic housing situation in the world, Washington was adopting the Helms-Burton Act, said parliamentarian Ricardo Alarcon, as he addressed representatives from 35 countries attending the National Campaign on the Improvement of Our Cities and Homes, being held in Havana.

The Helms-Burton Act was enacted to topple the Cuban Revolution, with one of its provisions stipulating the return of any abandoned property - including homes - to those who claimed prior ownership, said Alarcon.

Periodico26 also reports that the U.N program on human settlements, HABITAT, picked Havana as the site of the meeting to wage a campaign of tenent security.

HABITAT Executive Director Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka sent a message to the conference suggesting the need to recognize the Cuban example in urban development - which dates back to 1959 when the National Institute of Savings and Housing was created.

Is this the example Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka wants the world to follow?

If Cuba had a free society, people would work to build their own homes. As in all civilized societies, those who were unable to have homes built would be assisted by society - charity, government, something.  Instead, everyone now has  to wait for the government to figure out how to build homes for them. Perhaps, as fidel visits hugo in Venezuela today, he can learn how to build houses from plastic.



(c)1968- today j.e. simmons or michael warren