By Antonio Siegfrid O. Alegado | Business World Online
A PRIORITY bill merging two government agencies to form a new department in charge of regulating housing, land and urban development was approved by the Senate on second reading on Wednesday last week before the 15th Congress ended its second regular session the following day.
Approved was Senate Bill (SB) 3199, which seeks to form the Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD) by consolidating planning and regulatory functions of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board.
The proposed law "could be approved on third and final reading [at the Senate when the third regular session opens] in July," Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., urban planning, housing and resettlement committee chairman, said during plenary session last Wednesday.
The third and last regular session of the current Congress opens on July 23.
"The bill (SB 3199) shall address the increasing demand for urban poor housing, regulate urban growth and prevent deterioration of the environment," Mr. Marcos said in a speech introducing the bill for plenary debates and voting.
The envisioned department "shall be the sole and main planning and policy-making, regulatory, program coordination, and performance monitoring entity for all housing and urban development concerns," the bill states.
It will be authorized to enter into public-private partnership contracts, and discharge loans and assistance from bilateral and multinational organizations for housing and resettlement programs. The bill added DHUD will be the agency "promulgating zoning and other land use control standards."
The bill also said the new department will help local governments forge partnerships with civil society organizations and the private sector, as well as establish a "special housing fund" sourced from proceeds from the annual real property tax.
Local governments can use the fund for data gathering, land assessment purposes, as well as resettlement site development and monitoring.
A counterpart bill, House Bill No. 6231, is awaiting second reading approval at the House of Representatives.