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An end to classic cars rumbling across Cuba?

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A new law in Cuba could open the door for Cubans to own modern cars
  • Under current law, they can only freely buy and sell cars that were on the road in Cuba before 1959
  • The possible changes could also influence Cuba's real estate market

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- They rumble down city boulevards and country roads across Cuba: 1950s Fords, Buicks and Pontiacs, some in mint condition, others on the verge of collapse.

But a new law regulating property ownership in Cuba could change that.

At the recent four-day summit of the country's Communist Party, President Raul Castro announced that the legal framework allowing people to buy and sell cars and homes was in the "final stages."

What will this mean to the average Cuban?

He didn't provide details, but many Cubans hope it will be the end of half a century of restrictions. Under current law, they can only freely buy and sell cars that were on the road in Cuba before Fidel Castro's 1959 Revolution.

Cuba's cars and homes up for sale?
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Russian Ladas and modern Peugeots and Kias now outnumber the 1950s classics, but, for the most part, they are owned by the state and cannot be sold on the free market.

Like many owners, Michel outfitted his '52 Plymouth with a diesel engine and turned it into a private taxi. But he might be open to selling it.

"When they open a car showroom, I'll get in and try them all and then I'll tell you what I would do," he says. "I've never driven a modern car."

But he still doesn't think the American classics are in danger.

"If these cars didn't exist, not as many foreigners would come to Cuba to drive around in them and take pictures."

The changes could be much more significant for Cuba's real estate market.

As it stands, Cubans officially own their homes, but they can't buy or sell them. They can only exchange them for homes of a similar value.

In reality, a house trade is generally a complicated process involving illegal agents on the black market and cash. In some cases, buyers will simply marry the seller, put the house under their name and then divorce.

A group of prospective buyers and sellers who gather in the center of Havana said the speculation is that the housing law will be published next month.

"There are people who have money and don't have a house, so the changes are good," said one man who declined to give his name.

Because of the restrictions, there are also instances where three or four generations live under the same roof.

It's not clear how the law will work, but perhaps with an eye on the real estate boom in Russia -- Castro was adamant that he won't allow the "concentration of property."

 
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