HAVANA, Cuba. – In spite of all the problems the Cuban economy has had to face in recent years, from which the construction sector has not been spared, building new hotel guest rooms intended only for international tourism has, in fact, increased.
If we analyze the statistics issued by Cuba’s National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI by its Spanish acronym) during the six-year period between 2014 and 2019, we will see that the number of hotel rooms has increased year after year. In 2014 there were 53,290 guest rooms, while in 2019 there were 76,687 units.
However, the plans for housing construction have not fared as well. In 2020, for example, the state’s program for housing construction did not meet its goal, neither did it meet projections for subsidized housing. The latter is extremely important because it deals with basic housing units intended for the most vulnerable individuals in society.
The state program met 92% of its plan, and the basic housing units program met 61%. At the closing of 2020, 12,201 basic housing units were not completed; paradoxically, financing for those units had been allocated since 2012.
Also, the country showed a housing deficit of 862,879 units.
On August 23, an interview was published in Granma (about the progress of housing construction amidst the pandemic and the hardening of the U.S. “blockade”) with Minister of Construction, René Mesa Villafaña, where unmet goals for the first semester of 2021 were made public. Of the general plan to build 44,652 housing units, only 9,323 were finished, a total of 21%. The state program reached 26% of its goal, while the basic units plan reached only 11%.
The quality of the houses that have been built in recent times generally leave a lot to be desired. Sometimes, the construction brigades deliver the houses without bathroom fixtures, with leaks on the walls and without the required number of doors and windows due to wood shortages.
Linked to the issue of construction quality in housing, it was learnt from the minister himself that the program of housing rehabilitation –the repair of houses and the gradual elimination of tenements – had only met 17% of plan goals.
Other sources have indicated that, of the country’s housing inventory that totals 3,946,742 houses, 1,452,852 of them are in below-average or bad structural condition.
On this issue, a report published by Juventud Rebelde on June 25, 2019 caused great impact by noting that, in Granma province alone, there were around 1,000 houses with dirt floors. This was happening just as president Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez was announcing that in 2019, a New Housing Policy would take effect that would solve, in the medium term, all of the country’s the housing problems.
For a while now, the nation’s authorities have blamed their failure to meet its house-building goals on several things, such as the brain drain –of state construction workers to self-employment options-; a deficit in construction materials; organizational problems, as well as on difficulties in transporting cement to the eastern-most provinces.
However, when one corroborates how construction for the tourism sector keeps going forward, one can conclude that there is no will on the part of the government to solve the [housing] problem that is so important to the people.
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