Cuba's Underground Housing Boom

Socialist system camouflages complicated black market
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2008 2:58 PM CST
Cubans fish at dawn in Old Havana, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – A  booming black market in real estate is operating in Cuba, even though the government owns most property. Prices are soaring as property changes hands in a complex, illegal system called permuta, reports the New York Times. Housing swaps are permitted in Cuba, with government approval; permuta involves trading up or down, with illegal cash payments on the side.

“There aren’t enough houses, and families can’t buy them. So they trade," says a director who made a film about the process. Meanwhile, an increasing amount of paperwork is required for each swap, which means a corresponding rise in the amount of bribery necessary to grease the palms of the bureaucrats in charge.