Friday , May 25, 2018

Addressing housing woes

FOR some, especially to those who claimed to be on the edge of social hierarchy, home sweet home, is not always sweet at all.

There are those who settle in the shanties illegally while others can only afford a monthly rent, enduring what seems to be a never-ending pay-for-home cycle.

Sheila (surname withheld as requested), a 35-year-old cashier at a mall here and a single mother with two children, has been used to a ”house-for-rent” set up. She said she is okay with the P1,000 monthly rental fee she pays to her landlord.

“Because that is only what I can afford for now,” she told to SunStar Davao in an interview, adding there are even times she fails to pay as her budget sometimes is not enough for the rent, always trying to make ends meet.

She said owning a house is not part of her plans yet because apart from she can’t afford the housing costs, she is also unaware of how to avail housing programs for low-income earners provided by the government.

Sheila, with her situation, is the face of how the housing industry in the Philippines works.

Housing backlogs

Cabinet Secretary and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chief Leoncio Evasco Jr. in a recent interview said the Duterte administration's key agenda for the housing sector is to increase affordable housing production as well as bring down the cost of houses.

Fermin Sta. Teresa Jr., Pag-ibig Funds’ officer-in-charge of the Loans Operations Sector and the vice president of the Home Lending Operations Vis-Min Group, told Sun Star Davao that for Pag-ibig members, one of the top reasons why a lot still do not own a house is the unavailability of socialized housing projects.

“While we have an affordable housing program intended of low wage earners for as low as 3 percent interest rates, low cost housing projects are limited nationwide,” he said.

In a separate interview, Organization for Socialized Housing Developers of the Philippines national president Marcelino Mendoza, said private developers commit to double its production for this year from 250,000 housing units built last year to 500,000 housing units to answer the country’s housing backlog at 5.6 million.

Socialized housing refers to houses priced at P450,000 each and below under Republic Act 7279, or the Urban Development Housing Act of 1992 (UDHA). It is intended for the underprivileged and homeless.

For instance, listed mass housing developer 8990 Holdings Inc. launched several projects mostly in the Visayas and Mindanao to beef up its inventory of housing units.

The 8990 Holdings’ Deca Homes Mulig in Toril offers Single-attached and socialized housing with 540 units. The project’s construction is still ongoing.

Addressing housing bottlenecks

To counter housing industry bottlenecks, Evasco signed last March a memorandum forming a composite team to monitor and follow up on issues raised by the industry players.

He announced this move last March during the Grand National Housing Summit in SMX Convention Center, Lanang, Davao City.

He said the team will be composed of representatives from key shelter agencies and his office.

“This composite team will follow up all the issues and concerns tackled during the summit,” he said.

He emphasized that the team will primarily focus on four areas categorized by the government where there are constraints that make the implementation of various housing programs slacken.

HUDCC assistant secretary Clarence Pascual elaborated that the four areas listed down are issues on financial, permits and documentation, legal, and technical.

For technical issues, listed concerns are confusing and contradicting building standards and Fire Code of the Philippines, requirement of retention pond, rainwater catchment, and additional greening space, preparation, implementation and updating of Comprehensive Land Use Plan, and industry-wide data generation on housing, among others.

“For financial aspects, the tax reform initiatives affecting real estate, incentives, housing loans, others are identified while for permits and documentation, it centers on issues concerning the processing of clearances, permits, shortening the processing time and speeding up all the clearances required in the industry,” Pascual said.

On the legal aspect, developers brought the issues on implementation of the socialized condominiums, socialized housing compliance and amendment of the Real Estate Service Act.

Moreover, Pag-ibig Fund targets this year to reach the P70-billion mark loan funding nationwide with 100,000 families to benefit, much higher than the P57.3-billion loan funding reached last year with 77,000 families benefiting.

Sta. Teresa said P8.9 billion funding is targeted for Mindanao this 2017, with around P4.4 billion allotted for the Pag-ibig Fund Davao Housing Center which covers Kidapawan, Cotabato, Tagum, and the Soccsksargen area.

The amount is expected to help around 10,000 families depending on the type and amount of loan applied for by each beneficiary.

To realize the administration’s direction on the housing sector, it is clear that both government and private sector need to step up socialized-housing initiatives.