Sunday, November 6, 2011
Change is definitely in the air in Cuba. Last week, the Cuban government announced that it would allow sales of private homes by citizens and permanent residents for the first time in decades. (For more information, click here.) The new rules are scheduled to go into effect this week on November 10. While government approval will no longer be needed for many real estate sales, regulations remain. Homeowners are limited to no more than two homes and all financing must be arranged through the Cuban National Bank. Cuban has long suffered from a housing shortage, causing adult children to continue to live with their parents. While the new law may open up some new economic opportunities, it may also exacerbate social problems which result from a lack of housing.
The Cuban government announced another free market reform (reported in a New York Times article today): it will now allow private sales of vehicles. As many international travelers know, the Cubans have maintained many classic American cars from the 1950s, among other foreign cars. Because of a shortage of cars, and a shortage of money to run them, most Cubans cannot afford a car. As with the sale of private homes, these changes will benefit those few in Cuban society who are affluent enough to take advantage of the new rules, particularly those who have relatives abroad. Remarkably for a socialist, Raul Castro is reported to have said that the government has no business getting involved in a sale between two individuals.