Storm’s damages put concentrate on Cuba’s dire housing disaster

HAVANA (AP) – Olga Lidia Lahera lives along with her daughter and two granddaughters in a tiny 15-square-meter (160-square-foot) condo with peeling plaster partitions that has barely sufficient room for a shelf with pots and a rickety couch mattress . A fabric curtain separates the house they use to clean up. There isn’t a toilet.

A bit farther down Gloria Avenue within the Talla Piedra neighborhood of Previous Havana, Anet Ayala and her brother Wilmedis reside on the second ground of an previous constructing with cracks within the partitions and ceilings so massive that air, gentle and even water can go by.

The primary storm of the 2022 hurricane season, which hit Cuba in mid-June, collapsed or broken dozens of properties within the capital that had been already in poor situation, tearing off items of roof, balconies and facades.

That highlighted one in all Cuba’s foremost social issues: a scarcity of high quality housing brought on by a long time of insufficient upkeep, an absence of latest housing and impediments dealing with individuals making an attempt to repair up their very own properties.

An official assessment final 12 months discovered that the island of 11.3 million individuals had 3.9 million properties on the finish of 2020, virtually 40% of which had been simply in honest to poor situation. Cuba wanted one other 862,000 properties to adequately home its individuals – up from an formally estimated shortfall of about 500,000 in 2005.

The federal government introduced a serious nationwide program to unravel the issue in 2018, however the newest official figures present a dramatic drop in current building because the nation has struggled with a pandemic-stricken economic system and tighter US. sanctions.

In 2019, 44,000 properties had been constructed – 35% by the state and 65% by particular person households. In 2020, that quantity dropped to 32,000 – 43% by the state and 57% by people. Final 12 months, about 18,000 models had been constructed (47% by the state and 53% by people). There are not any official figures for the present 12 months.

That leaves households like Ayala’s with little possibility.

“When it rains right here every little thing will get moist, furnishings, the fridge. We’ve got nowhere to maneuver issues to, ”stated Ayala, making an attempt to manage her emotion whereas displaying the results of the newest downpours, together with a powerful musty scent.

“Tomorrow a wind will come and this (roof) will fall on us and we will probably be two extra lifeless,” stated Ayala, 36, whose face is partially paralyzed after surgical procedure for a mind tumor.

She and her brother Wilmedis Horta Ayala, a 39-year-old bodily schooling instructor at a main college, stuffed out every kind of paperwork to get authorization to legally repair the place, which is a couple of century previous, however the constructing allow – obligatory in Cuba – was by no means issued.

Lahera, 65, was a state worker till she requested a sick go away. The 4 of them reside off what the Cuban state give her daughter to care for her and the women.

“When it rains, the partitions right here decide up a present (grow to be electrified),” she stated. “They’re unhealthy, however I do not know to what diploma they’d fall. They’re all cracked; the constructing, the construction may be very previous. ”

For many years in Cuba, residential building was wholly managed by the socialist authorities and no authorized actual property market existed. Individuals couldn’t promote properties.

In 2011, President Raúl Castro approved the shopping for and promoting of properties as a option to reactivate the economic system, giving extra space to non-public enterprise. 1000’s of individuals acquired homes or invested in fixing up those they’d, which out of the blue gained capital worth.

With a rise in tourism and a rapprochement with the USA in the course of that decade, some areas like Previous Havana noticed a wave of gentrification, typically aided by funds from households within the US That hit a wall with the pandemic and Trump-era sanctions.

Cuba’s authorities has lengthy struggled to construct adequate new housing or preserve present buildings, and tried to maintain a good hand on non-public efforts, believing – typically appropriately – that constructing supplies had been pilfered from state shares.

Lately it has tried to supply extra credit for building and repairs and stimulate efforts by skilled and office teams to construct condo buildings for themselves.

However building supplies are sometimes laborious to search out at low-price official shops – which frequently insist on seeing permits – and personal sellers demand costs far past what Ayala or Lahera can afford,

Now, the primary rains of the brand new storm season have once more uncovered the fragility of Cuba’s housing – a lot of it positioned in coastal cities with salt-laden air.

“You simply must stroll by the town to see the profound deterioration of Havana’s buildings,” architect Orlando Inclán advised The Related Press.

Inclán was a part of a group that gained a contest sponsoRed by his skilled affiliation to construct social housing utilizing different or recycled supplies.

He and a few of his colleagues are urging the federal government to carry a ban on non-public structure and building companies and allow them to take part in a motion to scrub up public areas and homes for the island’s inhabitants.

“It’s time to diversify the housing coverage. The actors concerned should be diversified, the supplies should be diversified, the methods of understanding housing should be diversified, ”he stated. “There does not must be just one producer of housing… The one option to discover a answer to that is to assume creatively.”


Andrea Rodríguez is on Twitter:

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