Redeveloping Old Havana: The Challenge of Maintaining Social Equity in the Face of Rapid Change

By Jacklyn Kohon, Scott Ellis, Veronica Dujon and Melissa Iglesias.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: December 28, 2016 $US5.00

This research explores the ways that professionals and the processes in which they engage for the redevelopment of the historic district of Old Havana, Cuba, consider social sustainability. As Cuba proceeds with ongoing market reforms, the country is faced with significant challenges in maintaining social equity, particularly within the urban region of Havana. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with urban planners, architects, economists, community activists, urban agronomists, medical professionals, housing specialists, and religious leaders in this unique sociocultural context in a time of economic transition. Literature on social sustainability in urban regeneration and the social determinants of health informed categories for framing and analyzing social implications of redevelopment and economic change. Our findings indicate that substantial measures are being taken to reinvest in housing and social infrastructure while restoring historic structures and promoting tourism. However, due to overwhelming challenges that planning professionals and health practitioners face, such as inadequate supply and crumbling housing infrastructure, difficulties remain in addressing health, safety, and security concerns. Despite the country’s legacy of community-focused values, changing conditions have increasingly given rise to two Havanas, exemplified by a dual economy, a generational split, and an unsettling of spiritual identity across lines of race and class. Cuba’s foundational social equity values, which prioritize access to health, education, and housing, seem to be at risk of unraveling as the country transitions toward a more open, market-oriented economic system.

Keywords: Social Sustainability, Urban Planning, Social Equity

The International Journal of Social Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp.1-24. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: December 28, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.539MB)).

Prof Jacklyn Kohon

Assistant Professor, Global Studies Program, Akita International University, Akita, Akita, Japan

Scott Ellis

Equity Program Manager, Metro Regional Government, Portland, OR, USA

Prof. Veronica Dujon

Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Associate, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, USA

Melissa Iglesias

Student, Department of Psychology, Portland State University, Portland, OR, USA