Left Menu
Development News Edition

Cubans risk collapsing homes as state struggles to tackle housing woes

Around 45,000 of the Cubans in need of a home are staying at communal state shelters, according to official figures, where they have little privacy and can end up stuck for years. The head of one state construction brigade in Havana, Dasmir Díaz, told Reuters his team was building four apartments for employees of sugar monopoly Azcuba.

Reuters | Havana | Updated: 19-10-2020 21:31 IST | Created: 19-10-2020 21:14 IST
Cubans risk collapsing homes as state struggles to tackle housing woes
Representative image Image Credit: ANI

Wooden props support the ceiling of Cuban pensioner Filiberto Suarez' apartment in Havana as his building, like so many others in the Caribbean island nation, crumbles due to a punishing tropical climate and years of neglect. The roof of the century-old, three-story townhouse caved in years ago, forcing the families living on the top floor to move out, while shrubs sprout from cracks in its outer walls as if nature were reclaiming it.

When it rains, water seeps through the ceiling of the second story, two bedroom apartment where Suarez, 75, lives. But he still prefers it to the alternatives he says he was offered by local authorities: a communal shelter or an attic room. "Now I'm getting to be afraid because it's collapsing bit by bit," said Suarez, a retired decorator who sells medicinal herbs on his doorstep to supplement his monthly pension equivalent to just over $10.

Cuba's communist government, strapped for cash in the face of a decades-old U.S. trade embargo and inefficient centrally planned economy, has said repeatedly that tackling the country's housing woes must be one of its top priorities. In 2018, the government launched a 10-year plan called "Revolution is to Build" aiming to solve the deficit of around 929,695 houses in the country of 11 million by repairing 402,120 and building 527,575.

"We aspire to build more housing - let us make this dream possible," President Miguel Diaz-Canel told parliament last year, praising the construction of 43,700 extra homes in 2019, some 10,801 more than planned, despite a tight cash flow. But critics say it was too little, too late. Resources have become even tighter this year due to new U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic that has demolished tourism. Shortages of even basic goods like construction materials have worsened.

Some have sought to highlight the dangers posed by collapsing buildings with a campaign on social media, after the deaths of three girls crushed by a falling balcony in Havana in January cast a new spotlight on the issue. The government did not reply to a request for comment.

BEYOND REPAIR After the late Fidel Castro's 1959 leftist revolution, the state confiscated many of Cuba's grand historic buildings and distributed them to poor and middle-class families who over the years have often divided them into ever-smaller units.

Maintaining those buildings however, in the face of salty sea air, high humidity and hurricanes, fell by the wayside as the government prioritized universal healthcare and education, infrastructure in the impoverished countryside and industry. With state salaries averaging $40 per month, many Cubans say they cannot afford to repair or build homes on their own. Part of the government's plan is to facilitate credits and subsidies for this purpose although it has acknowledged it needs to end bureaucratic hurdles.

The decay is all the more poignant in Havana, which celebrated its 500th anniversary last year. The city's eclectic mix of colonial, neoclassical, baroque and Art Deco buildings are considered among the architectural jewels of Latin America. While communist rule long saved them from the urban developer's bulldozer and there has been a push to restore the historic city center in recent decades as tourism took off, many buildings have decayed beyond repair. Around 45,000 of the Cubans in need of a home are staying at communal state shelters, according to official figures, where they have little privacy and can end up stuck for years.

The head of one state construction brigade in Havana, Dasmir Díaz, told Reuters his team was building four apartments for employees of sugar monopoly Azcuba. The workers have been in shelters for more than 15 years. Many Cubans say they would rather risk their lives in their crumbling homes than move to a shelter. Sometimes, as in the case of Suarez, they also turn down offers of alternative housing if they feel it is too far out of town or inadequate.


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Turbulence surrounding tobacco control in Ghana

... ...

Refugee compassion and response: Ideas to mitigate disasters now and in their future

Their homeland becomes a forbidden territory for them and more likely than not, their journey to foreign soil is no less traumatizing, not to say deadly. It is crucial to help refugees live a life of dignity and purpose....

Inadequate water infrastructure causes a tidal wave of coronavirus in rural Alaska

... ...

Videos

Latest News

Soccer-Sanchez pleased as Qatar return to competitive action with easy win

Qatar coach Felix Sanchez was a very happy man on Friday as the 2022 World Cup hosts made a return to competitive action for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began with a comfortable 5-0 win over Bangladesh.A deflected effort in t...

Trump to withdraw most troops from Somalia as part of global pullback

President Donald Trump has ordered nearly all American troops to withdraw from Somalia, U.S. officials said on Friday, part of a global pullback by the Republican president before he leaves office next month that will also see him drawdown ...

Chinese professor pleads guilty to lying to FBI in Huawei-related case

A Chinese professor accused by U.S. prosecutors of helping steal American technology to benefit Chinas Huawei Technologies Co Ltd on Friday pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, but is expected to be allowed to return home after prosecutors d...

Saudi Arabia says resolution of Gulf dispute seems within reach

Saudi Arabias foreign minister said on Friday a resolution to a bitter dispute with Qatar seemed within reach after Kuwait announced progress towards ending a row that Washington says hampers a united Gulf front against Iran.The United Stat...

Give Feedback