All over the capital and in many provincial towns, Cubans are beginning to inject money into the island’s ragged real estate, spurred by government measures to stimulate construction and a new law that allows them to trade property for the first time in 50 years.
The measures are President Raúl Castro’s biggest maneuver yet as he strives to get capital flowing on the island, encourage private enterprise and take pressure off the economically crippled state.
For decades, the government banned real estate sales and kept a jealous grip on construction. Materials were scarce, red tape endless and inspectors meddlesome. Black marketeers would deliver cinder blocks by cover of darkness, and purchasing a bag of sand was a furtive process akin to buying drugs.
But during the past two months the state has reduced paperwork, stocked construction stores, legalized private contractors and begun offering homeowners subsidies and credits.