Cuba Housing Construction: 10 Years in Decline

June 1, 2017 |

By Daniel Benitez  (Cafe Fuerte)

Government built apartment buildings under construction.

HAVANA TIMES — Housing construction in Cuba has fallen for the tenth consecutive year in a row, adding to the further decline in a country with great housing shortages.

A recent offcial Office for National Statistics (ONEI) report states that only 22,106 properties were built in Cuba last year (this includes apartments and/or houses), the lowest figure of since 2006, when over 111,000 homes were completed.

However, what’s most revealing of these statistics is the fact that out of the total number of these completed homes, only 41.9% (9,257) were built by state-owned construction companies, while the majority (12,849) were built by private individuals.

The report doesn’t specify how many of these homes were completed with subsidies that the state offers people, nor what the main materials of these dwellings are.

It was in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, with a highly deteriorated housing stock, that the largest number of homes were built last year, 3,301 to be exact, followed by the 2,533 homes that were built in Havana, the province with the largest housing shortage in the country.

Less building materials

National production of several building materials have also fallen compared to 2015, especially rebar, prefab concrete slabs, gravel and cement.

The fall in housing construction comes in spite of the government’s huge efforts to push forward domestic building projects and to make measures more flexible allowing the transfer and sale and purchase of property, subsidies and the state allocation of homes to people in need.

Cuba’s housing stock is extremely damaged because of several factors, among them being decades of neglect with little or no maintenance, the red tape in the authorization process that allows you to make partial and general repairs to your home, as well as mistaken state policies and the effects of large-scale natural phenomena, mainly hurricanes.

The general housing shortage in Cuba is estimated to stand at over 700,000 homes. There are 3.7 million homes in Cuba, but almost 40% of these are in poor condition.

Housing Construction in Cuba (2000-2016)

2000 – 42,940
2001 – 35,805
2002 – 27,460
2003 – 15,590
2004 – 15,352
2005 – 39,919
2006 – 111,373
2007 – 52,607
2008 – 44,775
2009 – 35,085
2010 – 33,901
2011 – 32,540
2012 – 32,103
2013 – 25,634
2014 – 25,037
2015 – 23,003
2016 – 22,106

Source: ONEI

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  • Michael Ritchie

    The housing shortage is going to get worse before it ever gets better because the government allowed airbnb to operate in Havana.
    Every Cuban used to have a roof over his/her head even if it was in an abandoned building. Now any available space is being converted to b&b or airbnb to make money.
    A home which used to house a family of three generations is now converted for rental to foreign visitors. The residents? Out on the street.
    I warned you, Cuba… be careful what you wish for.

    • Jovito

      But the money from B&B goes to Cuban’s right? It’s great that they can now repair their houses before they all collapse. Residents on the street? Do you mean that the government is making Casas and throwing people on the streets?

      • Michael Ritchie

        In many cases those b&b or airbnb owners are Canadians or other internationals, Cubans by marriage.
        And the government takes 30 percent of receipts.
        To answer your final question, yes… the government is doing exactly that.

        • Jovito

          Nobody can’t be Cuban by marriage because Cuba does not give nationality to foreigners. Only permanent residency and so if they ever decide leave Cuba they loose the residency ans all their property in Cuba. Sounds quite risky. And by the way Government takes 10 percent..

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Correct Jovito. The 2012 census revealed that there were only 5,500 people resident in Cuba who were not born there.
            Cuba has not taken in a single refugee despite being an ally of Bashar al-Asad under whose dictatorship millions of Syrians have fled. Why do they go to the supposedly evil capitalist countries rather than seeking refuge in socialist ones?

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      Long before any Cuban had even heard of airbnb, the casa particulars were annually multiplying. airbnb is merely following in the footsteps of those other organizations. Obviously, you Michael Ritchie are opposed to Cubans having an opportunity to improve their lot by pursuing capitalist concepts. Can you inform us where those ejected “Out on the street.” are now living? As Cubans now own the properties in which they exist, your described family must have taken a decision to sell?
      But to suggest that airbnb is responsible for the development of casa particulars is ridiculous!
      The housing shortage in Cuba is a direct result of the reasons I described below. Can you or anyone else deny that?

    • The War At Home

      The best way to encourage housing construction is to make it profitable, and allow individuals in the private market to invest in housing (build new houses). The reason cows are so ubiquitous in rural America and rare in Cuba is because in America Beef is a money maker; however because of government regulations in Cuba it is not. Until recently the same could be said of housing.

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    Those 22,106 include the houses built to accomodate MININT employees – on the east side of Artemisa for example, I noted an extensive new estate of several dozen houses for them.
    But an application with plans for a modest 650 sq ft.house submitted to a municipality and with financing in place had not been granted planning pedrmission over one year later. That reflects the competence of the municipality and the indifference that is so common – nobody cares.
    The end of the story was that the family concerned eventually bought a home and set about repairing it. But now, over a year later the improvements that they started to make have ground to a halt, because it isn’t possible to obtain tiles for the kitchen and bathroom and doors to replace the old rotting ones. Paint is currently not obtainable.
    Cuba’s housing stock is following fifty eight years of ‘socialismo’ in a total mess as described in Daniel Benitez’s article. The shortage of rebar is making it difficult to construct new bici-taxis and metal furniture. Wood to make furniture is simply not available.
    None of this is a consequence of the US embargo, it reflects the policies and organizational abilities of the Castro regime.
    Perhaps the ‘socialismo’ supporters who are so vociferous in their praise of the Castro’s and in their condemnation of capitalism, can provide an explanation for the decline in housing construction?
    Now is the opportunity!

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      Amazing how the supporters of the Castro regime dry up when challenged to explain the incompetence that is inherent in communism!