14ymedio, Havana, 23 August 2021 — Housing construction in Cuba hasn’t had a good year either. In the first semester of 2021, just 9,323 homes have been completed, 21% of the 44,652 planned for that period, according to the Minister of Construction, René Mesa Villafaña, in an interview with the State newspaper Granma, which dedicated an article this Monday to the recent achievements in the sector.
“The state plan is fulfilled at 26%, with 4,051 houses built of the 15,872 planned. With regards to the subsidies it is fulfilled at 11%: 1,304 basic housing cells are completed, of the 12,201 projected.”
Private real estate construction and rehabilitation were also far from planned. In the case of the former, 3,968 homes were completed, of the 16,579 planned, some 24%. Meanwhile, the rehabilitation program remains at only 17%, with 5,931 improvements out of the 34,759 programmed.
Mesa stressed the importance of prioritizing the homes of those who need them most and said that “the policy is designed to benefit mothers, fathers and legal guardians who have three or more children under 17 years of age in their custody or care.” However, the numbers of homes built in 2020 by the State and by private efforts to replace those damaged by natural disasters and those subsidized for single mothers with three or more children are not good either.
“As of the end of 2020, 5,841 families have benefited from this concept, concluding 2,416 properties with different actions or totally new houses built. In the current year, 117 have been completed and the plan is to finish 5,658 dwellings,” an objective that is clearly complicated.
The article in the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, entitled How are the constructions going in the midst of the pandemic and the intensification of the blockade? highlights the tasks that have had to be prioritized in such a complicated scenario for the Cuban economy with regards to housing, a problem that affects hundreds of thousands of people on the island.
According to the latest available data, the housing deficit in Cuba reached 929,695 houses last year. Among the most affected provinces are Havana, with the lack of 185,348 homes; Holguín, with 115,965; and Santiago de Cuba, with 101,202.
But the ministry has prioritized some major works. Among them the renovation of the facilities of the Sierra Maestra Science, Technology and Innovation Entity (ECTI), the recovery of camps for the workforce, the clearing of the hectares for sowing plants, and the supplies of prefabricated elements in Pinar del Río. All of this as part of the reactivation of the program for the development of moringa cultivation devised by Fidel Castro, “which provides a response to agriculture and the health of our people.”
Mesa explains that two cement factories are also being built in Santiago de Cuba and Nuevitas, Camagüey, which are in the foundation stage, civil construction in infrastructure works and technological objects. The lack of cement has been behind the problems of private construction in recent years, and the authorities have even resorted to this argument to respond to the complaints of many Cubans who claim unsanitary conditions in their homes.
The material circulates on the black market at exorbitant prices, which sometimes exceed 1,000 pesos a bag, and it constantly prevents the completion of works or the solving of infrastructure problems, although its lack has not complicated the construction of luxury hotels — even when the pandemic has stopped tourism, nor the construction of the large concrete flag in front of the United States Embassy in Havana, in the so-called Anti-imperialist Platform.
Other works cited by the minister were the technological reconversion of Antillana de Acero, which is advancing with the intention of recovering other scarce material; ten ponds in Camagüey destined for the shrimp industry; and dozens of them in Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Granma and Guantánamo for fishing, whose works are due to conclude this year.
Likewise, also mentioned was the completion of 14 rice drying plants, and other works related to biotechnology through Labiofam.
The pandemic has also required, since 2020, the intervention of the Ministry of Construction, with works in 20 hospitals, obtaining 15,118 individual isolation places (617 of them in the Ministry’s facilities), and the repair of facilities for 2,686 beds. Services are also provided with water pipes, road repairs and internal areas of hospital and service centers.
The text attributes, as usual, the problems to the “tightening of the US blockade against Cuba”, but praises the construction sector for being “an impressive force of thousands of workers dedicated to the fulfillment of decisive national economic plans, aware that in this branch lies a good part of the construction of that prosperous and sustainable socialism to which we all aspire.”
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