Amid crisis, Cuba falls short on home-building

AP News
Posted: Dec 17, 2009 1:05 PM

Cuba built about 20,000 homes in 2009, meeting barely 60 percent of its modest annual construction goal and further exacerbating a severe housing crunch, the official press said Thursday.

A report prepared for Sunday's session of parliament indicates that authorities missed by more than a third the target of building 32,000 homes this year.

There was no reason given for shortfall, reported in the Communist Party newspaper Granma. Cuba's cash-strapped economy has been pummeled by the global economic crisis, however, causing officials to slash imports of food and other basics as the country's foreign debt balloons.

In September 2005, Fidel Castro said housing was such a priority that his country would build 100,000 new homes per year. That goal proved so overambitious that by 2008, officials had lowered annual projections to 50,000 homes, then sliced them to 32,000 for 2009 _ a bar that still proved far too high.

The communist government controls nearly all construction. Even operations as simple as obtaining building materials for home improvement usually mean turning to a black market supplied by state employees who steal goods from work.

Cuba reported in 2006 that its housing shortage had reached half a million homes _ and that was before three hurricanes hit the island in 2008, leaving tens of thousands homeless.

The Cuban parliament meets in full sessions just two days a year and usually gives unanimous approval to proposals put forward by the leadership.