HAVANA, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- Cuba on Wednesday published regulations for granting loans to individuals for house building and purchase of construction materials, the official daily Granma reported.
Under the new decree, which will come into force on Jan. 15, Cuban nationals will be eligible to get a grant of up to 80,000 Cuban pesos (3,300 U.S. dollars) in aid to build, repair or refurbish their homes.
The grants will cover all natural persons who live in "vulnerable conditions" and are unable to afford building materials or hire construction workers.
The regulations give priority to families affected by disasters such as hurricanes, floods, landslides and fires, as well as others considered as socially critical cases.
The Granma said that such grants are in line with the government principle of "eliminating undue gratuitousness and excessive subsidies, while compensating people in need instead of subsidizing products in general."
The shortage of housing is one of the main problems affecting Cuban people, especially after hurricanes demolished over huge numbers of houses in the eastern provinces and the Isle of Youth in 2008.
The government has previously planned to build about 62,000 apartments every year, but figures of the finished homes reached only half of that last year due to the lack of funds and inefficient organization.
The government is encouraging people to "build their own houses with their own efforts" as an alternative to solving the problem.
The scheme also includes running TV programs on construction skills and the "liberalization" of the sale of building materials to the public, previously restricted for decades.