Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cubans allowed to own property

Sun, 13 Apr 2008 03:58:55
Fidel Castro(L), and his brother Raul
Cubans will be able to get private titles to state-owned houses in a step that possibly paves the way for broader property reforms.

A decree published on Friday will expedite property titles for Cubans who have been renting state houses given to them as far back as 20 years ago through their workplaces.

The measure is the latest in a series of reforms to improve poor living standards and efficiency in Cuba's socialist state since President Raul Castro succeeded his ailing brother Fidel Castro in February.

The housing decree spells out rules that allow Cubans, renting from their state employers, keep their apartment or house after leaving their posts. The ruling also enables Cubans to gain title and even pass on the property to their children or relatives.

Holding onto state housing originally designated for specific workers has been a widespread but usually informal fact of Cuban life.

Many believe that the new measure would resolve the insecurity that the Cuban nation experiences and would ease the bureaucratic pressure.

Home to 11.2 million people, Cuba suffers from a severe housing shortage. Officials say they need half a million additional homes. Critics, however claim that the need is twice that figure.

By law, Cubans still cannot sell their homes to anyone but the government, though they can swap housing with government approval in a process that can take years to complete.

Since becoming Cuba's first new president in almost 50 years, Raul Castro has done away with bans that prohibited Cubans from owning cell phones in their own names, staying in tourist hotels and buying DVD players, computers and coveted kitchen appliances.

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