Hurricane Season: Risk of Collapse, If There is Wood, There are No Nails
/ Osmar Laffita Rojas
Posted on September 27, 2013
Havana, Cuba, September, Osmar Lafitta, www.cubanet.org — For many
Cubans, having a house or apartment, even fifty-four years after the
current rulers came to power, is an impossibility. Repairing or building
a home using their own resources remains the only option for hundreds of
thousands of families.
And the start of cyclone season is a time of great anxiety for many in
There are 3,000,000 homes making up Cuba’s housing stock. Of this figure
61% are reported to be in good condition. The rest, which have not been
maintained for decades, are in poor condition.
The government’s home construction programs are showing signs of
accelerated decline due to the ineffective economic model imposed on the
country, which has led to inefficiency and corruption.
The blame for everything
The official position is that the embargo is to blame for everything.
However, responsibility for the housing shortage rests with the
all-powerful State, whose micro-brigades — made up of amateur carpenters
and bricklayers — had a monopoly on home construction for almost half a
century, denying the public the chance to repair or build their own homes.
This absurd centralization is what led to the very serious housing
problem now facing the country. In 2008 Raúl Castro changed his tune.
Now houses can be bought and sold, and credits and subsidies are
available for those who do not have the money for construction
Most Cubans who want to repair their homes earn only twenty dollars a
month and cannot afford to pay five dollars for a bag of cement, or
three and a half dollars for a cubic meter of sand. Businesses that sell
construction material remain empty in every city in the country.
There are also shortages of concrete blocks, bricks, roofing tiles, and
flooring material. The suppliers, using various excuses, cannot
guarantee that these materials will ever be in stock.
To find what they need, customers must make pilgrimages to various flea
markets. And when they do find it, they have to add transportation costs
to the high price of the product.
The 90 points of sale and 33 stores that sell construction materials in
Havana province have very few products available most of the time.
The situation is just as disastrous in Holguín province. The shortage of
many materials poses a serious problem for its residents, who have still
not been able to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.
According to management
“The shortage of building materials is due to a lack of transportation.
The stone mills have stockpiles of different types of aggregates and the
cement factories’ warehouses are packed but there are no trucks to get
the material to the points of sale.”
Even a partial solution to the serious housing shortage would require
building no fewer than 70,000 units a year. Last year 26,000 were built.
Of those only 1,000 were built by the State; the rest were built by the
In Havana the housing deficit is even more alarming. 5,471 families have
spent more than a decade in temporary shelters. This figure does not
include those living in buildings that have been declared uninhabitable,
some of which are in danger of collapse. To prevent their roofs from
falling in on them requires building 28,000 homes to house these people.
The effects of Sandy
Last year Hurricane Sandy destroyed thousands of houses in Guantánamo,
Holguín and Santiago de Cuba. Before the storm, Santiago de Cuba had a
total of 329,129 homes, 40% of which were reported to be in fair to poor
condition. Sandy left the city in a state of chaos. In Santiago de Cuba
171,000 homes were damaged. One year later only 44% have been repaired.
Many residents complain that “there are no materials.” When there is
cement, there are no concrete blocks. When lumber arrives, there are no
doors. If there are no windows or roofing tiles, then it becomes a
veritable ordeal, which no one explains and which is never resolved.
Where are the materials that are supposed to be going to the storm victims?
What are the commissions set up to help those affected by Hurricane
Sandy in Santiago de Cuba doing?
In the three eastern provinces 26,000 homes were completely destroyed by
Hurricane Sandy. In the first six months of this year, only 4,690 were
rebuilt, an average of 130 houses per month in each of the affected
The situation is very serious. Forty-thousand homes damaged by previous
cyclones to hit Cuba have not yet been repaired.
Among the things destroyed by Sandy were 61,310 homes, whose inhabitants
are losing hope.
Osmar Laffita Rojas
September 9, 2013
Source: “Hurricane Season: Risk of Collapse, If There is Wood, There are
No Nails / Osmar Laffita Rojas | Translating Cuba” –