HAVANA.- Over the past few years, selfbuilding has provided some relief to the significant impact of the housing shortage and is also one way to gradually redress the deterioration -- due to the effects of hurricanes and age -- of the national housing stock.

The National Policy is encouraging this alternative and thanks to this, 17,000 houses will be finished this year as a result of the provision of centrally assigned materials (cement, sand, gravel and blocks), easier access to loans and subsidies for those with limited resources who require these services and the strengthening/ promotion of local and state production of materials.

Over the past few years, selfbuilding has provided some relief to the significant impact of the housing shortage and is also one way to gradually redress the deterioration -- due to the effects of hurricanes and age -- of the national housing stock.These initiatives are aimed at strengthening the population’s participation in the resolution of their housing needs.

There was a shortfall of 600,000 homes in Cuba in 2010, to which can be added the many buildings in a poor state of repair (8.5 of every 10 buildings require repair), a situation that requires a significant construction initiative, although hindered by national economic limitations.

Consequently, all strategies implemented by the nation must form part of a broad route, leading to an improvement in housing.

The Ministry of Construction, Economy and Planning authorities recently informed the Parliament of the progress of this program, asking that urgent attention be paid to the manufacture, the quality and the commercialization of building materials and the financial support available.

Between December 2011 and the end of April 2014, a total of 61,195 new bank accounts were opened in order to subsidize individuals for a total of more than 1,848,000 pesos.

It is reported that 425,000 loans were granted, primarily for the purchase of materials and the payment of labor costs, which in total was worth 4,000,000 pesos.

Consequently this makes 2014 the year in which the most approvals of this financial type have ever been given.

Both of the modalities adopted in December 2011 establish a maximum individual subsidy of up to 80,000 pesos for construction, allowing the beneficiary to build a house measuring 25 square meters with a bathroom and a kitchen. Furthermore, the subsidy includes labor costs which can be up to 30% of the total cost.

Similarly, loans of between 5,000 and 10,000 pesos have been approved for smaller building projects.

Subsequently, the scope of this measure was increased in relation to the amounts involved, the number of beneficiaries and repayment options. A further 5,000 pesos can now be added for transport costs, and access to this was extended to tenants renting state owned properties and those who live in tenement blocks.

Likewise, the assigning of state land to Cuban citizens who wish to build their own homes has commenced. Such areas for concession are defined by zoning plans subject to an urbanization process.

Even with recognized shortfalls in the availability of construction materials, their poor quality and flaws in the grants process, such support networks are deemed positive and welcomed by the population who, thanks to the subsidies and loans that offer a real alternative to lower income sectors, can proceed with their constructions.

Experts are of the view that popular and institutional controls of these processes should be reinforced regarding universities, research centers and technical institutions involved in the production of materials.

They also urge for the diversification of the 118 reasonably priced locally sourced natural products sold in more than 500 outlets nationwide, making an efficient contribution to the renovation of buildings.

The Cuban State and Government are working to improve the situation, but there is still a long way to go to overcome obstacles in this regard because in addition to the 12,000 state built units, the 17,000 self built homes that were finished this year were not sufficient to resolve the accumulated deficit.

Statistics derived from the 2012 Housing and Population Census indicate that the Cuban population resides in 3,885, 900 housing units, meaning an average of 2.87 persons in each. 61% of these units are described as in good condition, but the rest are found to be in a regular or bad condition.

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