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14ymedio biggerEFE / via 14ymedio, Havana, 26 December 2017 — Seven citizens from Pinar del Río province were sent to prison for the crimes of “hoarding and reselling” materials used for the construction of housing, one of the most problematic sectors of the island due to deficit of housing units and poor state of the housing that does exist.

The condemned bought and resold materials, specifically cement and steel bars that the State offers at partially subsidized prices. Three of them were sentenced to one year terms while the others were sentenced to 10 months, according to reports in the state newspaper Juventud Rebelde.

“Given the growing need of the population in terms of construction and improvement of the housing stock, it is necessary to be energetic and rigorous with those who, in an unscrupulous and opportunistic manner, profit from the needs of others,” the article said.

Among the goods seized in the searches were 1,697 bags of cement, 175 steel bars, 120 cement blocks, 11 LED lamps, 11 bulbs and a yard of gravel, which the resellers offer for double or triple their initial values.

The police have detained other citizens of the province for the same reasons, and they will be placed “at the disposal of the courts.”

The housing deficit is one of the most sensitive social and economic problems on the island, where more than three generations often coexist in the same household.

According to official data, at the end of 2016, Cuba registered a deficit of over 880,000 homes throughout the country, which currently has a total of 3.8 million homes. Furthermore, the housing stock is generally deteriorated and plagued with critical problems in large cities such as Havana and Santiago de Cuba.

In addition to the aging of the houses and the shortages at the points of sale for construction materials, the damages caused by the hurricanes that frequently hit the country add to the problems.

In the parliament’s last plenary session of the year, held last week, it was reported that on the island there are still more than 239,800 damaged dwelling units due to hurricanes such as the recent Irma, which left millions in losses after its passage last September.

President Raul Castro has insisted on a search for “agile” solutions to this deficit, which the Government tries to alleviate with a program of local production of materials to build homes, an approach almost paralyzed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, but which in recent years has begun to show a slow rebound.

Since 2012, a policy of subsidies for the repair and building of homes has been in effect in Cuba, which has benefited 345,090 people with 115,030 grants.

In this way, 62,485 homes have been completed, and another 52,545 are in progress.

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