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Manila Bulletin - Quo Vadis? The Dep't. Of Housing Bill After 20 Years

In The News
10 October 2012

By Charlie A.V. Gorayeb | Manila Bulletin

mb_onlineThe success of any government housing program depends on a well-planned and holistic consideration of the various factors that should come into play in order to ensure effective and sustained program implementation.

It calls for an integrated system that brings together the different components of a complete machinery that could run the engine of housing production and delivery. It also requires adequate and appropriate responses to the needs of human settlements through a balanced approach to urban planning and development, such as the development of new towns and communities that are equipped with the needed facilities and amenities conducive to humane living conditions.

In the light of the serious socio-political repercussions of the ever-increasing magnitude of homelessness which has ballooned to the present backlog of close to four million homes, and the major pump-priming role that housing activity plays in the economy, it is imperative that the government accords the highest priority to housing and urban development.

With the objective of raising housing production to the highest possible level to match the shortage and the compounding annual demand, our national leadership must show greater focus on housing concerns in accordance with a well-planned and holistic approach.

The Chamber of Real Estate & Builders’ Associations, Inc. or CREBA has long perceived that since the abolition of the Ministry of Human Settlements in the wake of the Martial Law regime’s downfall, the housing effort has suffered in terms of government prioritization at the highest level.

Surprisingly, government allocates less than one percent of the total government expenditures for the housing sector, or less than one-tenth of a percent of GDP on the average. This makes Philippine public spending on housing one of the lowest in Asia, according to former NEDA chief Cielito F. Habito in his paper for the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2009.

It is CREBA’s view that since shelter is one of the three most basic needs of man, provision of the same should enjoy a priority at least equal to tourism, social welfare, environment, education and other fundamental government services, and should be similarly addressed by a full-fledged Department rather than just a mere Coordinating Council.

As early as the early 90’s during the Ramos presidency, CREBA has been pushing for the passage of the Department of Housing bill into law. Government data at that time indicate that there was a backlog of just over a million housing units.

Various versions of the bill have been filed almost Congress after Congress, and were fought for valiantly by some of our progressive-minded leaders who served as chairmen of the Committee on Housing in the Lower House.

In the Senate, the bill went through at least six generations of Housing Committee chiefs.

Unfortunately, all these efforts somehow lost ground and the bill, many times over, met its fateful demise in the gates of the Senate and never reached the bicameral level. Only this time has the industry seen a Chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing, in the person of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who took serious efforts to really push the passage of the DHUD bill.

In 2004, the Medium-term Philippine Development Plan indicated that housing has an estimated multiplier effect of 16.6 times, meaning that for every peso spent for housing-related purposes, it generates about P16 of economic activity for the country. Yet, the actual housing construction from 2001-2004 versus the housing need was “modest”, the plan says.

HUDCC estimated the backlog then to be at over 3.7 million units. The concentration of the housing need was Southern Tagalog, Metro Manila and Central Luzon which made up 56 percent, while 21 percent was in Visayas. The remaining 23 percent was in Mindanao.

To address this issue, the Arroyo government included four major strategies namely, (1) expanding private sector participation; (2) addressing the housing requirements of both formal and informal sectors; (3) LGU capacity-building in the context of decentralization and devolution; and (4) strengthening the institutional capacity of the housing agencies by making the elevation of HUDCC into the Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD) a priority legislative agenda. However, this, too, became no more than a mere concept on paper.

Under President Aquino’s incumbency, the Philippine Development Plan for 2011-2016, using the National Urban Development and Housing Framework (NUDHF) for 2009-2016 as basis, estimates that the magnitude of housing need, more clearly defined as the housing backlog plus new households, is so enormous it could reach 5.8 million housing units by 2016.

CREBA believes that the creation of a Housing Department is not only imperative – it is even long overdue. The administrative and operational structure is already in place – comprised of the existing housing agencies and GOCCs. There is, thus, no compelling need to disturb this existing infrastructure.

The proposed Department of Housing Bill aims to address housing in its totality by encompassing four major aspects of land and housing development: finance, production, regulation and administration.

Any half-measures, focused only on one or two of these aspects, would be largely ineffective in view of the gravity of the current housing situation and may only result in waste of government funds and effort, if not failed expectations on the part of the millions of homeless.

Last July, 16 senators voted yes on the DHUD bill and approved it on third and final reading. This means that after the bicameral committee shall have consolidated their respective versions, the creation of the Housing Department is just one step away from reality.