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Regina Cano: I have lived my entire life in Havana, Cuba – the island from which I’ve still never left, and which I love. I was born on September 9, and my parents chose my name out of superstition, but my mother raised me outside the religion professed by her family. I studied accounting and finance at the University of Havana, a profession that I’m not engaged in for the time being, and that I substituted for doing crafts, some ceramics, and studying a little English and about painting. Ah! – concerning my picture: I identify with Rastafarian principles, but I am not one of them. I wear this cap from time to time, but I assure you I just didn't have a better picture.

For a Few More Square Feet

February 2, 2013 | Print Print |

Regina Cano

HAVANA TIMES — Certain regulations concerning housing continue to amaze and annoy me. In addition to these is the convoluted character of the case below.

The problem is that for a person who doesn’t like small spaces (whether they’re claustrophobic or not), it’s still difficult for them to add on to their houses here, despite the new reforms that were supposed to make this easier.

Let’s say your apartment has just two rooms (one room that serves as a living-dining room and another one that’s used for a bedroom). If you need a third room, for whatever purpose (maybe to store something or to set up an office or a shop for your profession), this isn’t going to be an easy row to hoe.

In the case I’m referring to, the addition was to be made by finishing the unused space directly under the roof, adjacent to the bedroom. Below this space is the bathroom, the kitchen and part of the patio, which is included in the legal description of the property.

To do this, you have to justify the addition as a “necessity” for the number of people living there. Currently, up to 430 square feet of living space is allowed per person. So, if you’re a single person, the housing code doesn’t allow you space larger than that. Therefore, if you want a place that’s 600 square feet, you’ll have to live with another person.

This in turn requires the other person to be legally registered at that address, meaning that your address would have to be both on their identification card and in the address registry of the CDR* on the block where you live.

Well, people! If the Housing Department’s inspection leads to an authorization for you to build, they’ll issue you a building permit. Without it, you’re a “dead person walking,” since they’ll come at you first with a fine and they’ll end up by having a demo crew tearing out any changes you’ve made.

Apparently the intention is to regulate unsafe out-of-code housing construction, but along with this family improvement is stymied.

We should keep in mind that not all houses have the same designs, density or occupy the same space. A housing unit in upscale Miramar is not the same as one in the outlying Alamar projects or in inner-city Old Havana.

Now, people! If the authorities rule that your house has the possibility of being added onto a little, you might be able to add on a room. This can be done if this addition doesn’t invade the space of another family and is within the regulatory limits of the building code. This also requires the possibility of verifying the stability and construction standards of the building.

What’s the sense of this nonsense? Why are there so many rules and changes if these don’t simplify things? What’s the point?
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* Committee for the Defense of the Revolution: An organization that includes nearly all Cubans, and apparently its registries include the addresses of all Cubans living on the island


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    This post is hilarious! Building codes in Havana? Since when? Buildings are falling down practically every day in Havana. I guess they didn’t get the memo.