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Cuba tightens oversight of property transactions

Havana, Dec 1 (EFE).- Cuba’s government has enacted new regulations for the sale, purchase and gifting of homes to prevent attempts at tax evasion, Communist Party daily Granma said Monday.

The new rules for property transactions were approved last Friday’s Cabinet meeting, chaired by President Raul Castro.

The rules provide for “a new market-related reference value to be applied to the donation and sale/purchase of housing units.”

Variables to determine the reference value include “the number of bedrooms, type of construction, urban services, neighborhood characteristics and the existence of garages, patios and gardens,” Granma said.

The sale and purchase of housing units between private citizens were authorized in 2011 after a decades-long ban.

To alleviate a chronic shortage of decent housing, the government in 2010 began licensing construction and lifted restrictions on the sale of building materials.

Last year, the government expanded a credit and subsidy program to finance home construction and repairs to existing homes.

Cuba’s Central Bank has lent some 3.23 billion pesos ($135 million) to individuals over the past three years, with 63 percent of the funds channeled to the construction and repair of houses and apartments.

Housing is one of the most pressing social problems in Cuba, where nearly 40 percent of homes are in disrepair and the housing deficit is estimated at more than 600,000 units.