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Havana's Crumbling Houses
Havana, Cuba
By Transterra Editor
13 Sep 2013

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 Some of the main issues faced by the people living in Havana are dangerous, including outdated electrical wiring, basic or even nonexistent plumbing, floors and walls that are unstable or that have already caved in, collapsing roofs and ceilings, water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.


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Housing in Havana 30
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
09 Sep 2013

A kitchen in Old Havana
The man who lives here is an alcoholic and he survives by begging.

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Housing in Havana 6
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
07 Sep 2013

A jumble of small dwellings that have been built onto the original flat roofs, further destabilising the already weakend structures of the buildings

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Housing in Havana 3
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
05 Sep 2013

Both the flimsy wooden supports holding buildings up and the vegetation growing in the damp cracks of the buildings can be seen all over Havana.

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Housing in Havana 17
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
03 Sep 2013

An elderly resident looks down at the stairs leading to her apartment. The original stairs collapsed completely and were replaced by this rickety, homemade staircase. Ten years ago this woman fell down these stairs and broke her shoulder, hip and all her front teeth.

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Housing in Havana 20
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
02 Sep 2013

Humidity is one of the major factors in the deterioration of the buildings in Havana.

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Housing in Havana 8
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
01 Sep 2013

The Capitolio seen from the roof of the former Hotel Bristol in Central Havana. This 1930’s hotel was abandoned and fell into disrepair. The former employees of the hotel decided to live in the hotel. Every available space is being used, even the shaft of the broken elevator and the empty and cracked roof top swimming pool that is being used as a kitchen.

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Housing in Havana 4
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
01 Sep 2013

A man walks through the arcades below a dangerously unstable building that has been inadequately supported by wooden poles.

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Housing in Havana 15
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
31 Aug 2013

The inhabitants of this building, which is dangerously close to collapsing, have been evicted. The flimsy wooden poles that prop it up are insufficient and there is a serious risk that the building could topple at any time, injuring or killing people in this busy street in Old Havana.

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Housing in Havana 22
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
31 Aug 2013

The view from an apartment in the former Hotel Bristol in Central Havana

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Housing in Havana 24
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
31 Dec 2008

A man smoking a cigar is standing next to a building that has completely collapsed. The building next door is still standing and people continue to live and work there.