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    Gentrification – another face of Cuba’s socialist equality

    Gentrification: another face of Cuba’s socialist equality
    JORGE ENRIQUE RODRÍGUEZ | La Habana | 10 de Octubre de 2016 – 09:25 CEST.

    If there is one issue the Cuban Government has failed to resolve in over
    50 years it is, undoubtedly, that of residential spaces. Cuba’s “housing
    problems,” as Government officials refer to them, cut across all the
    Island’s socio-cultural strata.

    Overcrowding, as notes psychologist Yanet Cruz Hoyos, “besides being a
    factor associated with domestic violence, is identified by most Cuban
    families as one of the main problems that affect their daily lives,” as
    “many people are forced to share small physical spaces.”

    The rhetoric of social equity, upheld by the sole party and promoted by
    its ideological affiliates, has never squared with the economic reality
    of everyday Cubans. And the “housing problem” manifests more clearly
    that the reform of laws allowing the sale of houses and apartments has
    not yielded equal opportunities to acquire decent living spaces.

    According to the figures in the 2014 Statistical Yearbook, in its
    chapter on construction and investments, completed homes in Havana
    during that period came to a total of 4,090, of which 3,096 were built
    by the State sector. But the data did not specify for whom, for what
    purposes, and where these “finished homes” are located.

    The writer Arsenio Castillo Martiatu notes that Havana has become “the
    capital of gentrification” (a process of neighborhood transformation
    that involves the implementation of new social and economic applications
    and the displacement of traditional residents, who cannot afford the
    rising housing costs. These areas become homogeneous in terms of their
    social composition, populated by more affluent people).

    It is no secret that for most Cubans, “if it was previously impossible
    to legally sell your home, it is now almost impossible to legally buy a
    property. At current prices – tens of thousands of CUC for an apartment
    or house – the possibility is nil. There are no saving mechanisms, no
    loans of this magnitude, or wages making it possible. Neighborhoods
    undergoing gentrification are usually located near the center of the
    city, including the coveted Vedado, where owning a good house or
    apartment means one must have the opportunity to run a rental business,
    or a restaurant or bar,” says Castillo Martiatu.

    The introduction of the “new economic model,” designed with more with a
    view to political power than promoting the entrepreneurial spirit of
    citizens, has been a failure in its empowerment of civil society. The
    ownership rates for Cubans, both on the Island and those in exile, are low.

    “The flourishing of the construction of homes through one’s own efforts
    is proportional to the growth of social inequality,” says Euripides
    Barrientos, an architect and the founder of Contingente Blas Roca. The
    same applies to the sale of properties.

    Gentrification or recolonization?

    “We do not sell ideas, we make them reality.” This is the slogan of a
    private construction sector group in charge of remodeling, among others,
    the local Bar 911 (in 27 corner 4) and Piano Bar H and 23, both in Vedado.

    One of its masons, Leonel G. Rodriguez, explained that the group also
    offers interior design services. “We focus on creating residences
    reflecting the current trends of minimalism and brutalism,” he says.

    “It’s almost impossible for an everyday Cuban to afford our services,
    due to the high cost of investment in quality materials and work. Both
    the houses and business locales that we have designed or remodeled are
    for people with affluent relatives living abroad, or foreigners who come
    to invest in Cuba and acquire these properties through Cuban owners.”

    Although the Government has not yet implemented a law allowing
    foreigners to buy property directly, both residential and business,
    foreign capital is being invested through Cuban owners living on the Island.

    “Gentrification in Cuba began long before the current reform measures
    undertaken by the national institutes of Physical Planning and Housing,”
    says Iznaga, an economist and ex-manager of the Caracol chain.

    “This reform also served to justify what was already obvious: a country
    that was being bought up, piece by piece, by private foreign investors
    and the Government’s military elite,” he says.

    “One example of the people who will have the opportunity to empower
    themselves is the GAESA’s ‘coup’ against the Havana Historian’s Office.
    Cubans who, thanks to their own efforts, manage to acquire luxurious
    properties or businesses are few, and the important thing is to ask how
    they acquired the capital, because gentrification in Cuba is also the
    result of a third factor: internal corruption.”

    Source: Gentrification: another face of Cuba’s socialist equality |
    Diario de Cuba – www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1476084334_25899.html

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