The Puzzle Of Housing In Cuba / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma
Posted on January 22, 2016
14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 7 January 2016 — A year after the
elimination of the National Housing Institute, the irregularities that
led to dissolving that powerful government agency continue. Excessive
paperwork and delays are an annoyance to the population that has barely
seen any benefits from transferring its functions to other state agencies.
On 5 January 2015 Decree Law 322 took effect, ending the decades-long
reign of the National Housing Institute. Since then, the Ministry of
Construction assumed the power to govern the housing policy of the
country, while other functions were given to the Institute of Physical
Planning (IPF), the courts and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.
During the last twelve months, 200,000 complaints have been received
about procedures related to housing. This figure exceeds the documented
dissatisfaction against the agency that previously dealt with these
issues, as reported during last December's session of the National Assembly.
Diana Rosa Suarez, legal director of the IPF, told the official media
that there are delays in the procedures, mainly those related to
technical advice and planning regulations, although there are also
delays in materials and shortages of personnel, especially qualified people.
The official defended her organization, saying that the current document
that certifies housing as "inhabitable" – for newly constructed or
repaired homes – now includes more data than before. Among these are
measures of the property and its boundaries and even the house number
that is going to be attached to the façade.
However, the arguments of the IPF representatives don't appease the
critics. Caridad Rodriguez, a resident of the Regla district in Havana,
believes that "things may have changed up there, but down here they
continue as before." The retiree says that asking for the services of
the community architect is supposed to take two weeks, but you have to
wait four months.
"To sell my house I had to get it on the property registry," the lady
explains, "so I needed a specialist to confirm that the property
boundaries coincide with those on the paperwork. After getting the
opinion of the architect, I had to wait 45 days for the registry office
to give me a certified deed to the property. Now, I'm looking for a new
buyer for the property because the previous one was in hurry and
withdrew his offer."
In Villa Clara province, 70% of the comments from citizens in last
year's Accountability Assemblies referred to problems in legalizing
titles to land and housing or access to subsidies, as reported at the
parliamentary meeting in the Palace of Conventions. The same thing
happened in the provinces of Las Tunas, Granma and Sancti Spiritus.
The Institute of Physical Planning, led by General Samuel Rodiles
Planas, is also increasingly unpopular. Many see this institution more
as a brake than an accelerator on the initiatives of people to construct
housing by their own efforts.
In an effort to combat the urban illegalities and violations, there has
been a proliferation os demolitions of housing or additions that have
been used for decades to expand living space.
In the Alamar neighborhood, Vladimir Pacheco, who lives in a two-room
apartment on the ground floor of a five-story building, built two
bedrooms attached to his home, as he interpreted it a no man's land. "I
came here with my wife and two sons in 1976," he told this newspaper.
"In the eighties my daughter was born and by 2004 we were nine people
counting my four grandchildren," he adds. The man decided to extend his
unit on land at the base of his apartment. In July of last year,
inspectors from the Institute of Physical Planning announced that they
would demolish the construction. "My two sons say that if they tear down
the rooms they'll launch themselves on the sea," says the worried homeowner.
A notary in the Havana municipality of Playa, a lawyer who asked not to
be identified, told 14ymedio that now it must be recognized that the
procedures have become more complex. "The day that in this country we
can build all the houses that people need, we are going to have to
change all the mechanisms that exist today," he says and confesses that
"otherwise they will have to import notaries from elsewhere."
The real challenge of housing policy goes beyond illegalities and
corruption, beyond urban violations or determination of boundaries. The
lawyer says, "The problem is much more complicated than shortening the
lines or the waiting time for a document, and at the same time it is as
simple as placing one brick on top of another."
Source: The Puzzle Of Housing In Cuba / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma |
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