Saturday July 21, 2018

Tell it to SunStar: Creation of new housing body redundant

THE creation of a new Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD) will be a disaster bound to set back in a big way the performance of badly needed shelter programs.

The proposed DHUD is absolutely redundant. It will not serve any real purpose. On the contrary, it will only install another bureaucratic wall that is guaranteed to further hold up housing projects.

We will have several new DHUD undersecretaries and assistant secretaries meddling in every program or project, and creating bottlenecks.

The national government should be decentralizing housing programs with the help of provincial, city and municipal governments – and not over-centralizing projects with an excessive new department.

Note the “terrible example” of the highly centralized, delayed and substandard construction of 205,128 homes in Eastern Visayas for the families displaced by super typhoon Yolanda. There’s no question the outcome would have been positive had the government simply given the families lots in the new settlements, complete with all the building materials they needed to construct their new homes on their own, plus some social welfare cash assistance.

The government could have simply focused on acquiring the lands for the new communities, putting in the new roads and sewer systems, and providing ready access to electricity and water.

People need shelter next only to food. We’ve seen and done this before in Manila. If families suddenly become homeless, and we give them what they need to rebuild their houses in sites where they can live suitably, they will quickly put up their new abodes on their own, or with the help of relatives, neighbors and volunteers in the Bayanihan spirit.

The delays in the completion of the Yolanda housing projects have been attributed to the over-centralization in Manila of the awarding of the contracts to the supposedly best-qualified private construction firms.

However, it turned out that the winning bidders simply subcontracted the projects to smaller firms, with some projects having been subcontracted four or five times downward, thus causing further delays and increasing the risk of substandard performance.

The issues affecting public housing programs could be best addressed by highly effective chief executive officers in existing agencies, plus ample funding.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, chairman of the Senate committee on urban planning and housing, earlier said that the Senate is expected to soon pass the bill creating the DHUD. Under Senate Bill 1578, all existing agencies dealing with housing will be grouped under the DHUD.

These agencies include the National Housing Authority (NHA), Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, Home Development Mutual Fund, Home Guaranty Corp., Social Housing Finance Corp. and the National Home Mortgage and Finance Corp.

In the previous Congress, the House passed on third and final reading its version of the bill creating the DHUD. But the House in the current Congress has yet to act on the bill.--Rep. Lito Atienza, Buhay party-list