To put order in the house

The Cuban government decided to close the National Housing Institute and transfer its functions to agencies leading a change of controls in the country’s urban planning.

With the transfer of the functions of the National Housing Institute to the Institute of Physical Planning, the Cuban government is taking another step to organise the construction and urban planning activity.

One of the government institutions with the worst reputation in Cuba, the National Housing Institute (INV), will disappear starting January 5 next year. The decision, endorsed by Decree Law 322, recently published in the Gaceta Oficial de la República, gives continuity to the reorganisation of the real estate activity and to the most complex general restructuring of the government.

According to the new legal regulation, the majority of the INV’s missions are now absorbed by the Institute of Physical Planning (IPF), an agency that has been heading for some years an intense movement to put a stop to the dominating disorganisation in the country’s construction, urban and rural planning activity. The Construction Ministry will take over another important part of the functions and structures of the closed institution.

In the distribution, the authorities place under the authority of other agencies tasks they consider more proper of them. The Justice Ministry will be in charge of defining the procedures for the swapping of installations owned by enterprises or other entities, the Labour Ministry will control the leasing of homes, rooms and spaces and the Popular Courts will settle the litigations between home owners.

With these movements, the government expressed its intention of simplifying or smoothing out the numerous procedures the population faces in actions linked to the legality of their homes or plots of land.

The vice president of the IPF, Belkys Serrano Tejerizo, told the press about the intention to consolidate the process of territorial and urban organisation through control instruments related to the use and destination of the land, the urban planning, environmental, health, and hydraulic resources regulations, among others.

Some of the benefits for the population with this readjustment include, said Serrano Tejerizo, that now the departments of Physical Planning will assume on their own, with no additional cost for the population, a group of procedures that persons were forced to face in offices of diverse institutions.

The Decree Law also seeks more flexibility and, at the same time, order in the handing over of state plots of land to natural persons for the construction of homes through their own efforts. “That concession of plots of land will be carried out in areas that are defined in the organisation plan and are subject to a process of urbanisation,” the vice president of the IPF explained.

The area that is granted “must have the primary urbanisation conditions so that the persons can start building,” she said when referring to the means of access, electricity coverage, water supply and the evacuation of domestic waste, among other dwelling guarantees

An institution cursed in the country for bureaucratic excesses it imposed on citizens is thus being left out of the Cuban economic and social scene. That vice, together with extensive housing shortages and limitations, turned the INV into a usual shelter for corruption actions.

Numerous commentaries by Internet users regarding information published in the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba, the daily Granma, speak of the measure’s impact. One of the readers, identified as Héctor Miranda, applauds the elimination of the INV, “which once must have facilitated procedures for the population and that only served to steal, from top to bottom. Now it is necessary that Physical Planning not inherit all those vices and that building a home doesn’t become an odyssey or a constant persecution to get some money out of you as always happened.”

This measure was preceded by steps to make flexible the construction operations in homes and liberalise the purchase and sale of buildings by their owners through the modification, in November 2011, of the General Housing Law.

In a broader sphere, the closing of the INV has joined a series of steps taken during several years to restructure, reduce, merge, close or create ministries and other government agencies in order to gain efficiency and better draw out the limits between the governing body of the State and the entrepreneurial leadership.

The current programme of economic transformations and, by extension, its most recent measure, seeks two goals that were misunderstood years ago like opposed qualities: decentralisation of the economic activity and a more efficient system of internal and external control. (2014)

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