Monday, January 5, 2009
Cubans allowed to build their homes with own private funds
Cubans will be permitted to build their own homes using their own
private funds, President Raul Castro announced on Sunday, in the latest
reforms to back off the centralized economy hard-line orthodoxy of the
past five decades.
Home construction in Cuba primarily has been left to the government, but
demand has outstripped supply and a dire lack of housing has greatly
frustrated the island's eleven million inhabitants.
Raul Castro said the policy change would allow the quick construction of
hundreds of thousands of new dwellings.
They will be told "OK, here you can build. I've given you this amount of
space, that amount of room for a street, and that amount for a sidewalk.
Now build your little home with whatever you can" said Castro on a local
His remarks were made as he visited the newly built "La Risueña"
neighbourhood, a settlement of Venezuela-built homes erected with the
help of oil money that has lessened, but not erased, the housing deficit.
The announcement comes just days after Cuba's celebration of the 50-year
anniversary of its 1959 Revolution. Former leader Fidel Castro was a
no-show at the celebrations.
Havana has succeeded in building only about half its annual goal of
100,000 new homes per year, and the dearth of dwellings worsened last
year after Cuba was struck in succession by three hurricanes that
levelled around a half million homes.
Over the past year, reforms initiated by the younger Castro brother have
included putting vacant farmland in private hands, increasing farmers'
pay, and allowing private contractors such as taxi drivers back into
Cuba's transport sector.
Raul Castro also has allowed Cubans to buy computers, own mobile
telephones, rent cars and spend nights in hotels previously accessible
only to foreigners — provided they can afford such luxuries on the
meagre average pay, equivalent to about 17 dollars per month.