Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Housing in Cuba: An Unresolved Nightmare
October 7, 2013

HAVANA TIMES — “No-one from the Ministry of Housing has come around to
see the finished house,” “this is the first time in 10 years that
journalists have paid any attention to people living in shelters,” “the
housing project was completed 3 months ago and we still don’t have
running water,” “this has been one lie after the other,” “we’re going to
be packed in like sardines.”

The people living in Havana’s “La Granjita” shelter are housewives,
pensioners, teachers, students, health professionals and translators.
All of them live with their families in this former guest house and
complain about the scant attention they get from the Housing Department.

The government recently acknowledged a 600-thousand-house deficit and
announced it would construct housing for those living in shelters.
Nearly 28 thousand units would need to be constructed in Havana alone to
house all who have lost their homes and are currently living in
relatively safe but inadequate locales.

Building efforts have already begun at “La Granjita”, but residents
complain of shoddy workmanship, theft of construction materials,
unventilated rooms, apartments without running water and leaky roofs.

“Adequate Housing”

“My house burned down and we were left out in the street. We survived
thanks to our neighbors, who let us cook and bathe in their home,”
Yoanka Penda told us, adding: “it was very hard for us because I was
only 13 and already the mother of a small child.”

Life became hard for her indeed: after the fire, she built a wooden
house and “hurricane Michel tore it down.” As a teenager, her son spent
all of his high school years in the rural boarding school because he had
nowhere else to go.

She was assigned a room at “La Granjita” 10 years ago. This past June,
she was given a 2-bedroom apartment, but “we still don’t have running
water, the doors are coming off their hinges, the roofs are leaking, the
rooms are unventilated, and they have the nerve to tell me this is
‘adequate housing.’”

She tells us that “we’ve been assigned a construction brigade and no one
from Housing even comes around to see how the building is coming along.
That’s why they always do a bad job, the building brigades leave the
work unfinished and steal materials.”

The Housing Department: “Fibs and Lies”

Maria del Carmen Linares is the chair of the block’s Committee for the
Defense of the Revolution (CDR). She tells us that some 90 people (14
families) live at the “La Granjita” shelter. Despite her position, she
does not conceal her irritation about Housing authorities.

“We have no running water here, all we get is a trickle. We have no
cistern, no tanks, no water pump. At every meeting we have, the people
from Housing tell us they’re going to fix the problem, but nothing
changes afterwards. They haven’t done anything; it’s all been fibs and

“The people from Housing and us agreed they would build 14 1, 2 and
3-bedroom apartments, but now they want to build 17 2-bedroom units. We
feel that you can’t put an 8-person family in 2-bedroom apartment, we’re
going to be packed in like sardines if they do.”

“We have no one to turn to and have no control over the use of
construction materials,” she says, adding: “No one from Housing comes
around here. The administrator was here in July. She took August off,
and is going away on vacation in September.”

Bread and Sugared Water

Jacqueline Marcos Oviedo is a teacher. She’s been living in the shelter
for 3 years without a food ration booklet, because “every time I go see
Juan Alberto Nachi, he’s not there and no Housing official in the
neighborhood knows where he is.”

“Every week, I take time off classes to go look for him, because I need
my ration booklet to get my food. Sometimes, the only thing I have for
breakfast is a piece of bread and sugared water”, adding that “I cook
using a gas cylinder that my neighbors lend me, or I bring home the food
from the school, for my children.”

Marieta Santana is 23. She has a university degree in English and
French. For her, “coming to live in a shelter, leaving behind my
neighborhood, neighbors and friends, was traumatic.” She complains that
the lack of public transportation where she lives keeps her from going
out. “The only thing I’ve learned to do here is stay in the house.”

She believes “La Granjita” could improve, but it would need more than
bigger apartments. “They have to asphalt the roads here, because they’re
all overgrown with weeds, and that attracts frogs, rats, mosquitos and
cockroaches. When it rains, the place turns into a swamp and you can’t
even get into the building.”

“It’s a Mess”

Dulce Maria Perez is a pensioner who worked as a draftsperson for 34
years. She’s been living at the shelter for 10 years, with no hopes of
getting an apartment. They changed the construction plans. They are no
longer planning to build 1-bedroom apartments, and she lives all by herself.

She tells us that “we make no progress. They build something and then
they tear it down” because of a lack of planning. “The first thing you’d
have to do is put together a decent plan, but they started building
without a general idea of what they were going to do with the sewage
water, the electricity and the water supply.”

“What they’ve done is a mess, but I’m not worried. I’ve been able to get
by without a sink, without a place to wash in, washing things and
throwing the water out into the street. I’ve had two heart attacks since
moving here and I’m not going to get wound up anymore.”

The people at “La Granjita” are happy to see the Cuban press finally pay
attention to them and that the government has decided to build them
homes. Dulce tells us that “the good thing about all this is how bad
things have gotten, because no one ever does anything until something
blows up in their faces.”

Source: “Housing in Cuba: An Unresolved Nightmare – Havana” –

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