HAVANA (Reuters) – Picket props help the ceiling of Cuban pensioner Filiberto Suarez’ house in Havana as his constructing, like so many others within the Caribbean island nation, crumbles because of a punishing tropical local weather and years of neglect.
The roof of the century-old, three-story townhouse caved in years in the past, forcing the households residing on the highest ground to maneuver out, whereas shrubs sprout from cracks in its outer partitions as if nature have been reclaiming it.
When it rains, water seeps by the ceiling of the second story, two bed room house the place Suarez, 75, lives. However he nonetheless prefers it to the options he says he was provided by native authorities: a communal shelter or an attic room.
“Now I am attending to be afraid as a result of it is collapsing little by little,” stated Suarez, a retired decorator who sells medicinal herbs on his doorstep to complement his month-to-month pension equal to only over $10.
Cuba’s communist authorities, strapped for money within the face of a decades-old U.S. commerce embargo and inefficient centrally deliberate economic system, has stated repeatedly that tackling the nation’s housing woes should be certainly one of its high priorities.
In 2018, the federal government launched a 10-year plan referred to as “Revolution is to Construct” aiming to resolve the deficit of round 929,695 homes within the nation of 11 million by repairing 402,120 and constructing 527,575.
“We aspire to construct extra housing – allow us to make this dream doable,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel instructed parliament final yr, praising the development of 43,700 additional houses in 2019, some 10,801 greater than deliberate, regardless of a good money circulate.
However critics say it was too little, too late. Assets have develop into even tighter this yr because of new U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic that has demolished tourism. Shortages of even fundamental items like building supplies have worsened.
Some have sought to spotlight the risks posed by collapsing buildings with a marketing campaign on social media, after the deaths of three ladies crushed by a falling balcony in Havana in January solid a brand new highlight on the difficulty.
The federal government didn’t reply to a request for remark.
After the late Fidel Castro’s 1959 leftist revolution, the state confiscated lots of Cuba’s grand historic buildings and distributed them to poor and middle-class households who over time have usually divided them into ever-smaller models.
Sustaining these buildings nonetheless, within the face of salty sea air, excessive humidity and hurricanes, fell by the wayside as the federal government prioritized common healthcare and training, infrastructure within the impoverished countryside and business.
With state salaries averaging $40 monthly, many Cubans say they can’t afford to restore or construct houses on their very own. A part of the federal government’s plan is to facilitate credit and subsidies for this function though it has acknowledged it wants to finish bureaucratic hurdles.
The decay is all of the extra poignant in Havana, which celebrated its five hundredth anniversary final yr. Town’s eclectic mixture of colonial, neoclassical, baroque and Artwork Deco buildings are thought of among the many architectural jewels of Latin America.
Whereas communist rule lengthy saved them from the city developer’s bulldozer and there was a push to revive the historic metropolis middle in current a long time as tourism took off, many buildings have decayed past restore.
Round 45,000 of the Cubans in want of a house are staying at communal state shelters, in response to official figures, the place they’ve little privateness and might find yourself caught for years.
The pinnacle of 1 state building brigade in Havana, Dasmir Díaz, instructed Reuters his staff was constructing 4 flats for workers of sugar monopoly Azcuba. The employees have been in shelters for greater than 15 years.
Many Cubans say they’d reasonably threat their lives of their crumbling houses than transfer to a shelter. Generally, as within the case of Suarez, additionally they flip down presents of different housing in the event that they really feel it’s too far out of city or insufficient.
(Reporting by Reuters TV, Nelson Acosta and Sarah Marsh; Modifying by Tom Brown)
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