14ymedio, Havana, 10 November 10, 2022 — “My sister left, closed her house, and I am taking care of it, but if she doesn’t return in 24 months she will lose it,” says María Clara, a 65-year-old woman from Havana who also has a nephew’s apartment under her care. The mass exodus has spread this phenomenon and also low-priced sales to be able to pay for travel expenses, a trend that could change with the new housing legislation studied by the Cuban Government.
“A commission of lawyers, experts on the subject of housing, has been formed to suggest changes that fit the current scenario of large numbers of emigrants,” says a law graduate linked to the Land Registry, who prefers to remain anonymous.
“We are now in the proposal phase, but the guidance we have received is that it’s about adjusting the current legislation so that it contemplates the possibility of making the issue of property and its conservation in the hands of those who spend some time abroad more flexible. We are still in the preliminary phase, although we have been told that everything could be approved very quickly.”
Among the proposals made by some of the lawyers involved in the commission is to allow the same person to own more than one home, something that is only allowed now if it’s a house in the city and another in a rural or beach area. “In that way, the family member who remains in Cuba could assume the ownership of the house and be able, in addition to taking care of it, to carry out all kinds of legal arrangements on it.”
With an unprecedented exodus — about 200,000 Cubans have reached the southern border of the United States since January — the Cuban real estate landscape highlights the challenges posed to the country by the massive departure of so many residents. “The number of powers over homes, vehicles and other properties has multiplied significantly,” recognizes an employee of the notary on 10th Street, between 15 and 17, in El Vedado.
“They arrive early in the morning and mark their spot in line, especially to leave a power of attorney to a family member so he can sell the house, rent it or donate it, as the case may be,” the same source adds. “They are people who haven’t decided to dispose of their property because they don’t know how migration will go, or people who, although they have tried to sell their house, haven’t been able to, because the real estate market is saturated with offers.”
“Normally they leave the power to a family member or a friend, but the case is already happening of a person who has several powers for several relatives and, on top of that, must physically take care of the homes that are in his care, which makes everything more complicated,” explains the notary worker. “We have to look for a solution to all this, and relaxing the time of 24 months that the person can stay outside the country without losing his property is a first step.”
The perception that the two-year barrier has become narrower is widespread, especially on an island where the numbers of migrants can continue to grow as many commercial flights stopped or cut by the pandemic are restored.
“The market is notable by the rush, the rush of the one who wants to leave and must sell before getting on the plane,” says Liuba, 35, who acts as an intermediary between sellers and home buyers. “But we also have to do business not just with the owner but also with the person to whom he left the power to decide on the house. It’s an increasingly common phenomenon.”
Authorizing Cubans to stay abroad longer without losing their residence on the Island and allowing them to have more than one property would be a way to “relieve this problem a bit and, above all, encourage people who are leaving not to feel that it’s forever, that they have a place here to return to,” Liuba considers.
Recently, Ernesto Soberón, general director of Consular Affairs and Attention to Cubans Living Abroad of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announced, during a meeting with emigrants from the Island in Uruguay, that Cuba was working on a citizenship law. The official assured that in the next Legislature of the National Assembly, which begins in 2023, a passport and immigration law will be approved.
Although the announcement has provoked a lot of speculation, it shouldn’t be surprising, as the adjustments to this legislation were already expected since the adoption of a new Constitution in 2019. However, the current migration context seems to be rushing the pace and forcing deeper flexibilizations.
“We are working intensively and sending broad proposals that connect not only the issue of home ownership with migration, but also facilitate many procedures related to property to be carried out from abroad,” explains the lawyer linked to the commission that prepares the new road map.
“But what is proposed, what is finally legislated no longer corresponds to us. That is decided “up there,” he recognizes. “I have several colleagues, excellent lawyers, who were proposed to be part of the commission and declined, because on other occasions they have sunk up to their knees in countless documents, and laws have been studied, but in the end their proposals have not been accepted.”
For this expert on property issues, “there is a pressing need to relax the right to several properties and the time frame abroad, but I don’t know if the Government is aware of the urgency.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
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