Cuba 13 Sep 2013 06:00
Housing in Havana, Cuba
“It’s falling down.” This was the answer I invariably received when I asked the residents of Old and Central Havana about their homes. These photographs are born from my desire to see what living inside the crumbling grandeur of Havana’s buildings looks like. I photographed inside and outside almost a hundred different homes. Most of the homes I visited are in Old Havana.
Old Havana was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982. Since this date, many buildings have been restored and though the work continues, the emphasis is always on preserving key buildings rather than improving or saving the lives of the general population. While certain buildings are done up to a high standard, the vast majority of the homes remain in a dangerous state. Age, decay, neglect, over-crowding and amateur repairs combine with natural factors to threaten the stability of Havana’s Baroque, Neoclassical and Art Deco buildings. There are two or three partial or totally building collapses in Old and Central Havana every week. Residents have no choice but to continue to live in these buildings that have partially collapsed.
Seven out of every ten homes are in need of major repairs, according to official statistics. Some of the main issues faced by the people living in Havana are dangerous, including outdated electrical wiring, basic or even nonexistent plumbing, floors and walls that are unstable or that have already caved in, collapsing roofs and ceilings, water damage, mold and dangerously unstable stairs.
A shortage of homes means the province around the capital needs some 300,000 more properties. Most of the once high-ceilinged houses of Havana have been divided both vertically and horizontally to provide more floor space. This puts the already weakened structures under additional strain. It also creates many dwellings with no windows or ventilation. Despite the many positive developments in education and healthcare the communist regime has bought about Cuba, it has failed with Article 9 of Cuba’s Constitution: The state shall work to ensure that no citizen is denied comfortable housing.