International second home developments are fun for those who have them and lucrative for those who sell them. But they can scarcely be described as important – until, perhaps, now.
After several false starts, it really does look as if Cuba is going to permit a second home development with properties bought by foreign individuals. A recent real estate reform, reported here, paves the way for it to happen and this scheme – which I saw last year on a visit to Cuba and reported on for the FT – is likely to be the first on the island.
It is ironic that although it will make headlines because of its location, the scheme itself, called the Carbonera Club, is fundamentally no different from a thousand other second home resorts in other sunny destinations.
It has features which, in the usual jargon of property developers, are simultaneously ‘exclusive’ and ‘unique’ yet appear the same as at other locations – golf courses and a marina, flats and villas, club membership, and restaurants, bars and shops.
But what will make it unique is that, at first anyway, owners will be able to see an island in transition – from, I suppose, communism to some form of New Labour ‘third way’ as public services and the wider economy are gradually privatised.
I saw a little flavour of that when I visited the resort. Part of the trip was to see the island's only 18-hole golf course (just the first on many if the holiday home resort spurs future development). The golf-pro there was not only a great golfer but also worked part-time as a taxi driver and every four years - for quite a while, I think - had represented Cuba at the Olympics in various water-sports, too.
For good or for bad, that sort of thing makes Cuba genuinely different from the rest of the world, which usually looks identical from the viewpoint of a wealthy person on a lilo in the pool of a holiday home.
At the current rate of change (accelerating sharply since President Obama came to office and lit a blowtorch to thaw the frosty relations between the US and Cuba) the island of Cuba will, sadly, appear much like any other sunny idyll within a decade.
But until then Cuba will be a genuinely fascinating place for a holiday home – you will be able to view history from your poolside…and the weather and the food will be great too.
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