Havana: Cuba on Thursday announced it will allow real estate to be bought and sold for the first time since the early days of the revolution, the most important reform yet in a series of free-market changes under President Raul Castro.

The law, which takes effect November 10, applies to citizens and permanent residents only, according to a red-letter headline on the front page of on Thursday's Communist Party daily Granma.

The brief article said details of the new law would be published imminently in the government's Official Gazette.

Authorities have said previously that sales will be subject to taxes and the rules will not allow anyone to accumulate great property holdings.

The change follows October's legalisation of buying and selling cars, though with restrictions that still make it hard for ordinary Cubans to buy new vehicles.

Castro has also allowed citizens to go into business for themselves in a number of approved jobs everything from party clowns to food vendors to accountants and has pledged to streamline the state-dominated economy by eliminating half a million government workers.

Cuba's government employs over 80 percent of the workers in the island's command economy, paying wages of just USD 20 a month in return for free education and health care, and nearly free housing, transportation and basic foods.

Castro has said repeatedly that the system is not working since taking over from his brother Fidel in 2008, but he has vowed that Cuba will remain a Socialist state.

Cubans have long bemoaned the ban on property sales, which took effect in stages over the first years after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. In an effort to fight absentee ownership by wealthy landlords, Fidel enacted a reform that gave title to whomever lived in a home. Most who left the island forfeited their properties to the state.

(Agencies)