mcloudyn.png
Thursday June 30th, 2022 11:55PM

Storm's damages put focus on Cuba's dire housing crisis

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

HAVANA (AP) — Olga Lidia Lahera lives with her daughter and two granddaughters in a tiny 15-square-meter (160-square-foot) apartment with peeling plaster walls that has barely enough room for a shelf with pots and a rickety sofa bed. A cloth curtain separates the space they use to wash up. There is no bathroom.

A bit farther down Gloria Street in the Talla Piedra neighborhood of Old Havana, Anet Ayala and her brother Wilmedis live on the second floor of an old building with cracks in the walls and ceilings so big that air, light and even water can pass through.

The first storm of the 2022 hurricane season, which hit Cuba in mid-June, collapsed or damaged dozens of homes in the capital that were already in poor condition, tearing off pieces of roof, balconies and facades.

That highlighted one of Cuba’s main social problems: a shortage of quality housing caused by decades of inadequate maintenance, a lack of new housing and impediments facing people trying to fix up their own homes.

An official review last year found that the island of 11.3 million people had 3.9 million homes at the end of 2020, almost 40% of which were just in fair to poor condition. Cuba needed another 862,000 homes to adequately house its people — up from an officially estimated shortfall of about 500,000 in 2005.

The government announced a major national program to solve the problem in 2018, but the latest official figures show a dramatic drop in recent construction as the country has struggled with a pandemic-stricken economy and tighter US. sanctions.

In 2019, 44,000 homes were built — 35% by the state and 65% by individual families. In 2020, that number dropped to 32,000 — 43% by the state and 57% by individuals. Last year, about 18,000 units were built (47% by the state and 53% by individuals). There are no official figures for the current year.

That leaves families like Ayala's with little option.

“When it rains here everything gets wet, furniture, the refrigerator. We have nowhere to move things to,” said Ayala, trying to control her emotion while showing the effects of the latest downpours, including a strong musty smell.

“Tomorrow a wind will come and this (roof) will fall on us and we will be two more dead,” said Ayala, 36, whose face is partially paralyzed after surgery for a brain tumor.

She and her brother Wilmedis Horta Ayala, a 39-year-old physical education teacher at a primary school, filled out all kinds of paperwork to get authorization to legally fix the place, which is about a century old, but the building permit — mandatory in Cuba — was never issued.

Lahera, 65, was a state employee until she requested sick leave. The four of them live off what the Cuban state give her daughter to take care of her and the girls.

“When it rains, the walls here pick up a current (become electrified),” she said. “They are bad, but I don’t know to what degree they would fall. They are all cracked; the building, the structure is very old.”

For decades in Cuba, residential construction was wholly controlled by the socialist government and no legal real estate market existed. People could not sell homes.

In 2011, President Raúl Castro authorized the buying and selling of homes as a way to reactivate the economy, giving more space to private enterprise. Thousands of people acquired houses or invested in fixing up the ones they had, which suddenly gained capital value.

With an increase in tourism and a rapprochement with the United States in the middle of that decade, some areas like Old Havana saw a wave of gentrification, often aided by funds from families in the U.S. That hit a wall with the pandemic and Trump-era sanctions.

Cuba's government has long struggled to build sufficient new housing or maintain existing structures, and tried to keep a tight hand on private efforts, believing — often correctly — that building materials had been pilfered from state stocks.

In recent years it has tried to offer more credits for construction and repairs and stimulate efforts by professional and workplace groups to build apartment buildings for themselves.

But construction materials are often hard to find at low-price official outlets — which often insist on seeing permits — and private sellers demand prices far beyond what Ayala or Lahera can afford,

Now, the first rains of the new storm season have again exposed the fragility of Cuba’s housing — much of it located in coastal cities with salt-laden air.

“You just have to walk through the city to see the profound deterioration of Havana’s buildings,” architect Orlando Inclán told The Associated Press.

Inclán was part of a team that won a competition sponsoRed by his professional association to build social housing using alternative or recycled materials.

He and some of his colleagues are urging the government to lift a ban on private architecture and construction businesses and let them participate in a movement to clean up public spaces and houses for the island’s population.

“It is time to diversify the housing policy. The actors involved must be diversified, the materials must be diversified, the ways of understanding housing must be diversified,” he said. “There doesn’t have to be only one producer of housing … The only way to find a solution to this is to think creatively."

—-

Andrea Rodríguez is on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Real Estate
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Storm's damages put focus on Cuba's dire housing crisis
The first storm of the new hurricane season hit Cuba in mid-June and collapsed or damaged dozens of homes in the capital — tearing off pieces of roof, balconies and facades
12:51PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Sen. Kevin Cramer injures hand, may face finger amputation
Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota has announced that he suffered a serious injury to his right hand and is potentially facing amputation of a finger
12:49PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Former education minister in Brazil is jailed in graft probe
A former education minister of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro was arrested in connection with a federal police corruption investigation
12:49PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Afghanistan quake kills 1,000 people, deadliest in decades
Afghanistan's state-run news agency reported a powerful earthquake struck a rural, mountainous region of the country's east, killing 1,000 people and injuring 1,500 more
12:08PM ( 49 minutes ago )
Myanmar's Suu Kyi moved from secret location to prison
Legal officials say ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been transferred from a secret detention location to a prison in the country’s capital
12:00PM ( 57 minutes ago )
Saudi crown prince visits Turkey as countries normalize ties
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has arrived in Ankara, making his first visit to Turkey following the slaying of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul
10:43AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP World News
US importing baby formula from Mexico to ease shortage
The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is providing logistical support to import the equivalent of about 16 million 8-ounce baby formula bottles from Mexico
11:56AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP source: Maurice closing in on deal to coach Panthers
A person with knowledge of the situation said Paul Maurice and the Florida Panthers were in the process Wednesday of finalizing a deal to make him the club's next coach
11:52AM ( 1 hour ago )
Microsoft: Russian cyber spying targets 42 Ukraine allies
Microsoft says “strategic espionage” by state-backed Russian hackers has targeted government agencies, think tanks, businesses and aid groups in 42 countries supporting Ukraine
11:39AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
US futures point lower ahead of Powell testimony to congress
U.S. markets were poised to open lower ahead of congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who is expected to address the central bank’s response to the persistent inflation that has thrown global markets into turmoil
8:16AM ( 4 hours ago )
Global shares dip despite Wall St rally; eyes on Fed chair
Global shares are lower as markets shrug off a Wall Street rally and await the congressional testimony of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell
4:59AM ( 7 hours ago )
South Korea hits dozens with travel bans amid crypto probe
South Korean prosecutors have barred dozens of people connected to Terraform Labs from leaving the country as they expand an investigation into a $40 billion collapse of the company’s cryptocurrency that devastated traders around the world
4:00AM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
Home sales slow again as mortgage rates climb
Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes slowed for the fourth consecutive month in May as climbing mortgage rates and prices discouraged many would-be buyers
10:09AM ( 1 day ago )
This is how a higher Fed rate could affect your finances
Record low-interest mortgages are long gone
4:40PM ( 6 days ago )
Retail sales in May slip 0.3% amid surging inflation
Americans trimmed their spending unexpectedly in May compared with the month before, underscoring how surging inflation on daily necessities like gas is causing them to be more cautious about buying discretionary items
3:09PM ( 6 days ago )
AP Business - Real Estate
Sen. Kevin Cramer injures hand, may face finger amputation
Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota has announced that he suffered a serious injury to his right hand and is potentially facing amputation of a finger
12:49PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Former education minister in Brazil is jailed in graft probe
A former education minister of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro was arrested in connection with a federal police corruption investigation
12:49PM ( 9 minutes ago )
EXPLAINER: Why Russia-Lithuania tensions are rising
New tensions between Moscow and the West are rising after Lithuania decided to halt the transport of some goods through its territory to the Russian region of Kaliningrad as part of European Union sanctions on the Kremlin
12:42PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Ukraine expects EU-wide support for candidacy to join bloc
A Ukrainian deputy prime minister overseeing the country’s push to join the European Union says she’s “100%” certain all 27 EU nations will approve making Ukraine a candidate for membership in the bloc
12:39PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Title IX: Strides for women of color in sports lag under law
In the 50 years since the landmark law was passed, profound strides have been made in women and girls’ participation in sports
12:39PM ( 19 minutes ago )