Another Building Collapse in Havana, Where Housing Construction Fell 86 Percent in Four Years

The outcome: A six-year-old boy with minor injuries

Collapse at number 57 Malecón, between Cárcel and Ángeles / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 May 2024 — Debris piled up this morning at number 57 Malecón, between Cárcel and Ángeles, in Central Havana. Hours earlier, a set of stairs had collapsed in the building, leaving a six-year-old boy with minor injuries. According to neighbours, the child has been transferred to the Juan Manuel Márquez hospital and appears to be out of danger.

A whirl of officials from the Communist Party and the provincial government chatted with residents in the area on Tuesday, while Comunales workers [public services, including garbage collection]  collected the remains and shored up the building; nobody seemed to be moving out of the building. The situation invites us to think the residents should remain in a building whose decrepitude is in plain sight.

Collapse at 57 Malecón, between Cárcel and Ángeles / 14ymedio

The event is unfortunately common in a country where housing construction is another of the many sectors fading away, as the report published by the National Statistics and Information Office (Onei) last week shows. On the island, the need to renovate the housing stock coexists with empty buildings due to mass emigration. Havana is the province that best reflects that schizophrenia: in five years it has gone from building 10,280 properties in 2019 to just 1,394 in 2023, according to data from the Construction Ministry.

The document also reveals other data, such as the heavy weight of private construction in the total and the falling supply of almost all the necessary materials in the last year.

According to the document, 16,065 homes were built in 2023, compared to 20,232 the previous year, 20.5% fewer. Of these, most were built by their owners by hiring specialists, 61.4% (9,869), while state companies took over 38.6% (6,205), a drop not only in their amount but also in their percentage compared to 2022 when they built 40.1% (8,103).

In 2023, 16,065 homes were built, compared to 20,232 the previous year, 20.5% fewer

The numbers increase if we look at the ones that are currently underway. Some 97,164 homes are being built by their owners and only 4,733 by the state. There are also 40,274 works at a standstill, all belonging to the do-it-yourself category, predictably (although not indicated) due to bureaucratic reasons.

Province-wise, only three improved their data on finished homes compared to the previous year, most notably Pinar del Río, with an increase of 25%. Hurricane Ian, which hit hard in September 2022, may be one of the factors that stimulated activity, although it is precisely this territory where the figures remained constant during the last three years. In any case, compared to 2019, fewer than half of the 3,006 houses built that year were completed in the westernmost province of Cuba.

In Havana, in a five-year span, the numbers went from 10,280 properties in 2019 to just 1,394 in 2023

Holguín, with 12.5% more finished homes than in 2022, and Isla de la Juventud (2%) complete the list of those that improved on this indicator. On the other hand, the eastern provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Granma finished 30% fewer buildings than the previous year and Havana sank to almost 52% fewer, with 1,394 compared to 2,875 in 2022, a number that was already close to half of those that were finished in 2021. Its sustained drop is also consistent with the rise in the number of people leaving the Capital during the last two years, whereas the population of the provinces tends to emigrate less.

The document also highlights the shortage of construction materials, which is in turn a decisive factor in the decline in work completion, which explains the high number of units still under construction. Crushed stone and corrugated iron bars are the only materials whose production remained stable (0.3% growth for the former) or increased (17.3% for the latter).

There is a shortage of construction materials, which is a decisive factor leading to the decrease in the completion of the works

The rest of the raw materials suffer significant drops in production, the most serious being ready-mix concrete (30%), concrete blocks (26%) and grey cement (24.5%). The scarcity of these materials has led the Government to insist since last year on “taking advantage of the potential” of the territory and building with mud and clay.

However, the population has not used this resource as much as the authorities would like, so much so that last November Cubans earned the scolding of an unbridled deputy prime minister Ramiro Valdés Menéndez. At a sector’s meeting, he raised his voice to demand more results: “There are orders to build the ovens. The plans have been delivered to the territories. Do they carry out the work? They do not. Why don’t they do it? Where is the discipline? Where is the control? There are instructions but they are simply not executed in the territory. ”

Translated by LAR


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.