Cuban renters get OK to buy homes from state
Some renters in Cuba will soon get titles to their properties.
Posted on Sat, Apr. 12, 2008
BY FRANCES ROBLES
Cuban state workers who have been paying rent to the government for
years will get a chance to own their properties, the Cuban housing
ministry announced in an official decree Friday.
The move came on the heels of a broadcast announcement that salary caps
would also be lifted, raising speculation that even broader reforms
could be coming.
''Maybe it's a hopeful sign that they are making changes,'' said
attorney Nicolás J. Gutiérrez, who represents clients in Miami whose
properties on the island were confiscated. “I don't think it's
earth-shaking . . . but it's something.
''They don't want to do too much because they fear they will whet
people's appetite for more and be swept out of power,'' Gutiérrez said.
“But they realize they have to do something.''
Cuba has long boasted that up to 85 percent of its populace owns its own
home. But even those who have titles cannot sell their homes or leave
them to relatives who don't live there.
Many other people live in rental housing projects set aside by their
employers, such as the military, and this measure would put them on par
with the majority of Cubans who have titles to their properties.
A March 14 document by the president of Cuba's National Housing
Institute posted Friday in the Official Gazette laid out a complicated
series of regulations for owning homes for those civil servants who now
rent employee housing. The decree said the workers will get to leave
property to their heirs, provided 20 years of rent payments were paid.
''In the event the tenant has died, his heirs have the legal right to go
ahead with the proceedings, so long as they demonstrate [their legality]
through documentation and occupy the home permanently,'' the decree
said. “The occupants of buildings who remain in them after the decease
of the tenants have no legal right [to the home] if they have not signed
a new contract with the leasing entity.''
Thousands of Cubans could take advantage of this move, including
military families, sugar workers, construction workers, teachers and
doctors, The Associated Press reported.
Two officials at Cuba's National Housing Institute told the AP that
Friday's published law was likely the first in a series of housing
reforms. Both asked not to be named, however, because they were not
authorized to speak to foreign media. The officials said ''thousands and
thousands'' of Cubans would be affected, but did not give exact figures,
Gutiérrez pointed out, however, that if the rented homes originally
belonged to exiles who fled Cuba, the government does not have clear
title to the properties. It was unclear Friday whether any of the
properties once belonged to exiles.
Friday's announcement was the latest in a series of measures that appear
to be designed to lessen mounting frustration among Cuba's 11.2 million
Cuban leader Raúl Castro, who in February was named president, recently
lifted bans that prohibited citizens from buying cellphones, DVD players
and computers as well as staying at the nation's 44,000 hotel rooms
previously reserved for foreigners.
The changes suggest Castro has given up on his brother Fidel's long-held
notion that all Cubans must be equal. The recent reforms have largely
benefited only Cubans who can afford them.
''To hold title to a property doesn't mean the same in Cuba as here, but
it has value,'' said Cuba analyst Philip Peters of the Lexington
Institute in Virginia. “If in the future all title holders are
permitted to sell their property, that would be revolutionary.''
Miami Herald translator Renato Pérez contributed to this report.