Delegate Name: Simon Rothstein
UN Development Program
Simon Rothstein. Forest Hills Northern High School
Informal settlements are a matter of dispute among many countries as they offer potential threats or support to varied groups. Informal settlements and slums offer residence to over one billion people worldwide: about 12.5% of the world’s population. To these people, informal settlements are marked by a strong social infrastructure, effective community leadership, personal investment in homes, and links to more formally housed communities. At the same time, however, these settlements are unregulated residential areas and typically have inadequate physical infrastructure, unsuitable environments, uncontrolled, excessive population density, unsatisfactory homes, a lack of health, education, and employment opportunities, and no government regulation and management.
Before the 1950s, Cuba had significant housing issues. A large part of Cuba’s population lived in informal settlements or impoverished housing. Shantytowns and crude dwellings covered Cuba’s rural areas. Thus, during the Cuban Revolution, starting in 1959, the leader of the revolution, Fidel Castro, prioritized addressing issues regarding housing and homelessness. Castro implemented state-owned homes and highly subsidized housing to control the costs of houses and construction. He also passed laws to eliminate evictions and lower renting costs. In 1960, he eliminated multiple ownership, limiting people to one house and one vacation home, and allowed renters to buy their homes for a low cost. The Urban Reform Law turned half of the tenants into owners of the homes they were staying in, and other tenants received rent-free leases for long periods. Houses built after 1961 could not have leases exceeding 10% of the household income, further benefiting tenants. Various other legislation and programs followed Castro’s intentions, such as the Self-help and Mutual Aid program, the Microbrigade system, and the 1984 Housing Law. When the Soviet Union fell, Cuba’s economy took a big hit. They relied on foreign tourism to rebuild their economy, and foreigners were allowed to purchase houses in Cuba. Cuban citizens were also allowed to rent up to two rooms of their houses.
Moving forward, Cuba hopes to maintain its near-zero homelessness rate. Cuba recognizes the importance of the provision of adequate housing to all its inhabitants and considers home ownership a basic right of all humans. Thus, Cuba believes that informal settlements should be addressed and legislation should promote the replacement of informal settlements with legal, regulated homes and communities. In its efforts to introduce this system, Cuba maintains that this replacement should not leave inhabitants without housing, only replace it with better-regulated and updated housing.
Cuba understands that an outright governmental reconstruction of all informal settlements within a nation is a huge undertaking for some countries or goes against the economic principles of some countries. However, having gone through a long series of housing reforms, Cuba emphasizes the significant benefit of this process on a country’s homelessness rates. Cuba believes that the implementation of government-regulated housing renovations in informal settlements is vital to the protection and promotion of the inhabitants’ right to home ownership.