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06 November, 2011

The Starting Line / Yoani Sánchez

Posted by: "PL"   cubaverdad

Sat Nov 5, 2011 9:20 pm (PDT)

The Starting Line / Yoani Sánchez

Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

The Paseo del Prado has been unsettled for the last couple of days, and
not just because of the hustlers hustling and the hookers trolling for
tourists. The uproar comes from the new Decree-Law No. 288 which
establishes rules for the buying and selling of housing. A long-awaited
measure that finally sees the light of day in the Official Gazette, to
the relief of many and concern of others. In the spontaneous housing
exchange that exists on this pedestrian promenade bordered by bronze
lions, the curious ask about the details of a measure undoubtedly more
flexible, but still insufficient. They want to know if the property
title that they have in their hands grants them, starting now, full
rights to assign, inherit or sell their houses. In a nation that has
lived for decades with a frozen real estate market, they find it hard to
believe that everything will be as easy as some speculate, or as legal
as the Ministry of Justice assures us.

One of the principal fears on the street now is concern about how the
Central Bank will rule on the legitimacy of money used to buy real
estate. Because for every transaction of this type the cash must first
be deposited in an account and the distrustful clients of our banking
system fear that it could end up being confiscated if the State decides
it didn’t come from “clean” sources. But to every risk people will
respond with some kind of trick, so I imagine that from now on the funds
declared and placed in the bank will be a half or a third of the real
cost of the house. The rest will pass from one hand to another, from one
pocket to another. For too long we have behaved like outlaws in this
area, so one shouldn’t expect that starting now everything will be done
according to the 16 pages of the new decree.

There is also the possibility of a migratory stampede, because “the act
of owners transferring their housing, before permanently leaving the
country, is legal under the act.” Thousands of Cubans have been waiting
for this signal, like runners crouched at the starting line waiting for
the gun to go off. The high costs of immigration procedures will be
covered by the sale of homes that will offered for sale in the real
estate market. A house, for forty years an anchor, will become a set of
wings. It’s notable, of course, that the new measure includes the
tenuous twine that pulls the piñata out of reach, already evidenced in
the decree about the sale of cars. The wedge of the pie reserved only
for those ideologically most-trusted owners, was expressed this time in
Point 110. It states, “the Executive Committee of the Council of
Ministers and its President will be able to decide, with respect to
housing located in determined areas of the country.” We will see the map
of the Island riddled with patches where the requirements to buy and
sell will not be written anywhere. The so-called “frozen zones” will
grow and the social differences — so often denied — will flourish,
particularly that deep abyss that separates those trusted who are with
money from those citizens with resources not sanctified by power.

November 4, 2011

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