To address the concept of housing we must point out the ownership of it, the constructive quality and the basic services available (drinking water, electricity, telephone, communications); meeting physiological, psychological, social, religious needs; quality of life (security, privacy, beauty, lighting, ornate, material structure); subsistence satisfaction (shelter, work, rest, procreation, environment); satisfaction of protection, health and safety; the satisfaction of green and leisure areas (recreation, sport, privacy, parks, theaters, cinemas); satisfaction of identity and social belonging (degree of integration in the neighborhood). Therefore, housing is related to the concepts of family, work and society.
It would be long and complex to conduct a study to see how family homes meet all the specific requirements identified that affect the concept of “housing and family life”. On the other hand, there are also “indirect needs” related to housing such as access and purchase of food, clothing, education, health, work, leisure, the clean and healthy environment.
Housing and family
“Housing is a building that offers physical-environmental, dimensional, equipment and termination conditions that guarantee the realization of the functions of people’s private and family life.”1
This definition rightly points to the insertion of housing in a constructive, environmental and social context, at the service of people’s private and family lives. Humans, especially children, need to feel protected and safe, meet the basic needs of food, clothing and housing. For this reason, the old adage that “married people, house wants” remains valid. And adults who don’t get married also need a home that guarantees them protection and safety. Apparently, every adult has a need for privacy and housing, above the marital or legal state of their choice in life. The same is true of institutions and social entities that need a seat and housing as a sign of identity and belonging.
Good housing alone does not guarantee the quality of family life, but it contributes to this. It also helps the location of the house, so we talk about residential neighborhoods and depressed areas housing, according to which there are municipalities or distributions with better homes than others. That is, the quality of the house is associated with firmness, ornate and constructive amplitude, transport services, quality of streets and access roads, sewerage and supply of drinking water, gas, electricity, etc.
In Cuba, the construction and repair of homes by the State and individuals who build with their own means does not cease. According to the Statistical Yearbook of Cuba, in 2014 25,037 homes were completed. During previous years, this figure was higher, even in 2007 the amount amounted to 52,607.2
However, it is a fact of public knowledge that the housing problem is one of the first social needs of Cuba, also recognized by the authorities of the sector. According to official figures, 33,889 families (132,699 people) need a roof; most of them have spent decades in temporary shelters for those affected by landslides or cyclones, which has increased because of the latest hurricanes.
Housing deficits should be added to housing wear and tear of buildings with constructive deterioration due to material deterioration, collapse and tupition in drinking water and sewerage systems. According to the 2012 Census of Population and Housing, 60% of the 3.9 million homes on the island are in poor condition. This certainly does not mean that all unhealthy buildings need to be demolished, but need repair.
Examples of housing deterioration and wear abound, especially in some Havana neighborhoods. For example: in a multi-story building, after the partial collapse of the stairs, the electricity company cut off power and gas service was also suspended. After a check-up, specialists at both institutions decided to restore those services a few days later, without the problem of stairs in the building being solved.
Sometimes, constructive solutions are difficult in the restoration of old homes to which floors are added, roofs are built, attics, divisions and subdivisions are made to accommodate more people within the property, whose initial construction was not intended for this purpose. Therefore, the drinking water and sewerage system will collapse and the electrical system will suffer from overloading…
We must recognize the positive efforts of many families and groups of neighbors who have decided to repair their homes. Likewise, it is to admire the concern of families to keep clean and decent the house where they live, even if they cannot paint or restore it every year.
On the other hand, speculation with building materials is worrying, and also the undemeasured desire for profit that some people try to satisfy with the sale of homes. The current legislation allowing the purchase and sale of homes is a success as an indicator of economic openness, but if prices are exorbitant, other social conflicts will arise. It eliminates a problem to make the ownership of a home legitimate, but few can acquire them. These economic problems will bring with them others, of a social nature, which are already glimpsed: exclusivity of homes in neighborhoods intended for diplomats, foreign entrepreneurs and rich Cubans; impossibility of access to housing by young people and the population with low purchasing power, difficulty of young people in the formation of a family with their own home, which will force them to live as “aggregates”; the progressive deterioration of old dwellings whose inhabitants cannot fix them; the increase in housing in emergency facilities due to collapses and poor housing condition.
The social doctrine of the Church (ISD) inserts the right to housing as a requirement of the common good linked to the integral promotion of the person.3 Essential services for individuals are also fundamental rights of man: food, room, work, education, access to culture, transport, health, free movement of information and protection of religious freedom.
The common good is a duty of all members of society, and this is the first purpose of all rights.4 Housing, like the land, has a universal destiny for the service of the people who live there. People have the right to ownership of land and housing, provided that the principle of universal destiny of goods is respected.
“Private property is an essential element of an authentically social and democratic economic policy and is a guarantee of a righteous social order. Social doctrine posites that the ownership of goods be accessible to all equally, so that everyone becomes, at least to some extent, owners […] The Christian tradition has never accepted the right to private property as absolute and untouchable, but subordinate to the universal destiny of the goods […] This entails links to its use by the rightful owners.”5
Housing and work
Housing and place of residence influence the quality of family life, but also work and job performance. Those who rest well and have peace of mind at home will be able to perform better at work. Moreover, only those with fixed residence can access a fixed employment contract.
On March 2, 2017, granma published an article under the title “Workers from other provinces can be hired individually in Havana”. It was a response to the question or complaint filed by a professor residing in the province of Mayabeque in the face of the refusal he received from the Municipal Directorate of Education of Old Havana to enter into an employment contract, based such a decision on his “residence” outside Havana. Where do you live? Where are you from? Where do you work?
The response of the Legal Directorate of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to the doubt presented by the professor was as follows: “Nothing prevents the recruitment in Havana of workers from other provinces”. This assertion was supported by an official of the Employment Directorate of that ministry and as legal support mentioned the Labour Code (Law No. 116 of 2014) and its Regulations, which repealed Decree Law No. 268, of the year 2009.
However, it is not said that the text of Decree 268 is reproduced almost identically in Article 3 of the Regulations of the Current Labour Code.6 It follows that any state entity located in the territory of Havana must be subject to exceptions for the recruitment and transfer of workers from other territories of the country , which must be approved by the respective ministries or by the Provincial Board of Directors of Havana, as is the case of the Municipal Directorate of Education. In addition, adequate living and working conditions must be ensured for such workers, i.e. to guarantee them housing and food.
Restrictions on the recruitment of workers from other provinces in Havana would appear to be determined by what each ministry or the Board of Directors has regulated, wither by limiting the recruitment of persons without official residence in the capital. For foreigners (from another nation) the issue is more complicated. This limitation is only for the state sector, although the Ministry of Labour and Social Security is obliged to maintain control over all contracts.
However, having an employment contract in Havana with people from other provinces cannot be invoked as an argument for obtaining residence in the city, because Decree 217 and its subsequent amendment submit to the approval of the Provincial Board of Directors of Havana, granting residence in the capital of all Cubans.
Cases where residence authorization is not required in Havana are: own a home or have insanguinity or marriage ties with the owner of a home. For the rest of the persons, it is the discretion of the said unit to approve such residences and under certain conditions, such as the number of square meters of the house in which the person will reside.
It should be noted that Article 2(b) of the Labour Code lays down a principle of non-discrimination which is restricted by the supplementary regulations of approvals and authorisations. In my view, the principle of the law should take precedence over the supplementary rule, but the reality is that restriction usually prevails in most of these situations. I note this in the neighborhood where I live, where many people from other provinces of the country live who have not managed to obtain dignified and official residence in Havana, so they also do not manage to obtain a stable and well-paid job.
Housing is a necessity and a right that promotes the dignity of individuals and families. The property of a dwelling place to dwell is a desire of human beings, especially when they wish to form their own family. The quality of housing is an indicator of social development and economic boom; it also contributes to the well-being and progress of families. In Cuba, the State’s effort to build homes, as well as that of individuals who have obtained own resources and subsidies to build or fix them, is remarkable. It is also evident the deterioration of many homes due to lack of maintenance and the difficulty of some marriages to acquire a house of their own.
According to current Cuban legislation, the ownership of a house and the residence there are important requirements to obtain a stable employment contract in the territory where you want to live. The difficulty of acquiring a home sometimes prevents it from moving to work in a stable way in provinces other than the original one. In turn, illegal transfers and residence are the cause of illegal work activities, causing crowds of people in the homes where they are staying, in the homes of friends or family. Thus there is a vicious circle that has no easy solution.
It is true that many families have housing and even own it. But it is also true that the house, the property and its state of conservation are constant concerns of Cuban society. There is a lot of effort for families to keep their homes clean and comfortable; The solidarity of many people who welcome family members into their homes to help them solve this basic need is also remarkable.
It would be desirable for all families in Cuba and around the world to live in a dignified, safe and comfortable house where there is peace, tranquility and stability. May the dwellings facilitate the proper rest to carry out the work for the benefit of the common good. Anyway, as the ancient Latin adage said: Primum vívere deinde philosophare (“First you have to live, and then philosophist”). To maintain the stability of the family and the home much helps a decent house in property, because “married, house want”. Ω
1 ONEI: Statistical yearbook of Cuba 2014, Havana, 2015, p. 291.
2 Cf. ob. cit., p. 293.
3 Cf. Compendium of the social doctrine of the Church, n. 166; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1907; Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, n. 26.
4 Cf. Encyclical Populorum progressio, n. 22.
5 Compendium of the social doctrine of the Church, n. 176-178.
6 Cf. Law No. 116. Labour Code (promulgated in the Official Gazette, 17 June 2014):
ARTICLE 2.- The fundamental principles governing the right to work are:
(a) work is a right and social duty of the citizen and the income earned by him is the fundamental way to contribute to the development of society and to the satisfaction of its personal and family needs;
(b) equality at work; every citizen in a position to work has the right to obtain employment in ac with the demands of the economy and his choice, both in the state and non-state sectors; without discrimination on the basis of skin color, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, territorial origin, disability and any other distinction harmful to human dignity; equality in wages; work is remunerated without discrimination of any kind…
And see the Regulations of the Labour Code:
ARTICLE 3.- The heads of the bodies, agencies, national entities, senior management organizations and the President of the Council of the Provincial Administration of Havana, have the indelegable responsibility to approve to their entities based in that province, the exceptions for the recruitment and transfer of workers from other territories of the country, to meet their workforce needs temporarily or permanently. Before such approval, the living and working conditions for those workers must be guaranteed.
In movements from other territories to the province of Havana, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security exercises control over the provisions established for the workforce.
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