Cubans can now build own houses

Jan. 5, 2009 at 1:07 PM
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HAVANA, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Another sign of change has cropped up in communist Cuba with President Raul Castro's announcement that Cubans can build their own homes with their own money.

Castro's housing edict Sunday is the latest in a series of reforms since he took over from his ailing brother Fidel on an acting basis in July 2006 and permanently in February 2008.

With demand by Cuba's 11 million citizens overcoming supply, Castro said the policy change will allow for quicker construction of hundreds of thousands of new homes, Mercopress reported Monday.

Cubans will be told "OK, here you can build. I've given you this amount of space, that amount of room for a street, and that amount for a sidewalk. Now build your little home with whatever you can," said Castro on a local television program as he visited a new neighborhood of Venezuela-built homes.

Mercopress said the Cuban government has reached just roughly half its annual goal of 100,000 new homes per year, and the situation worsened after the island nation was hit by three hurricanes in 2008 that destroyed about a half million homes.

Under Castro, Cuba also has transferred vacant farmland into private ownership, given farm workers raises and moved taxi drivers and other jobs over to the private sector. The government also has allowed Cubans to own cell phones and computers and to rent cars and stay at hotels.

Many of the perks are out of reach for the average Cuban, who earns about 17 dollars a month.

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