A LAWMAKER on Tuesday urged the government to ask for United Nations' (UN) participation in addressing the housing problem in the country.

House committee on housing and urban development chairman Alfredo Benitez said the government should seek the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to assess the country's housing backlog and make recommendations on how to efficiently and swiftly address the problem.

Benitez made the proposal as he vowed to take immediate action on an appeal for a congressional inquiry into reports that incidence of homelessness in Metro Manila is the highest among urban centers in the world.

Benitez said the UN recently conducted a study of the housing issues that affected the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland upon the invitation of the British government.

He cited that in the case of UK and Northern Ireland, UN Special Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik cited the British government for giving priority to social and affordable housing, through public funding for specific housing related policies.

However, Rolnik recommended, among others, that the state to "extend and expand grants and subsidies for social housing, as these have been essential in responding to the housing needs of the most vulnerable."

"The UN rapporteur can be asked to make an assessment of the same problem confronting the Philippine government right now. We hope to use the feedback as a positive approach in solving the housing backlog," Benitez said.

He said that housing agencies have been asked to present a master plan on how to solve the housing industry problem but various issues such as legal problems and budgetary constraints tie up agencies.

Initially, housing agencies will be requiring at least P150 billion annually under housing industry standards to help manage the housing needs in the next three years.

The lawmaker said that the House committees on Metro Manila development and on housing and urban development will conduct a joint inquiry into report of List25.com website claiming that 22.8 million people in Metro Manila are "slum dwellers" and 1.2 million of them are children.

"Understanding the problem is the first step to finding the solution," said Benitez.

Quezon City Representative Winston Castelo authored a measure calling for a congressional inquiry into the issue, saying the website listed 25 cities with extremely high homeless populations.

According to List25.com, the 25 cities with extremely high homeless populations include Metro Manila, New York City, Los Angeles, Moscow, Mexico City, Jakarta, Mumbai, Buenos Aires (Argentina), Budapest (Hungary), Sao Paulo (Brazil), San Francisco, Seattle (Washington), Athens, San Diego (California), Tampa (Florida), Rome, Washington, Chicago, Tokyo, Baltimore (Maryland), Rio de Janeiro, Dublin (Ireland), Indianapolis (Indiana), Denver (Colorado), and Lisbon (Portugal).

"According to an online site that compiles what it describes as 'lesser known intriguing information on a variety of subject,' Metro Manila has the highest homeless population in the world," Castelo, chairperson of the House committee on Metro Manila development, said. (Sunnex)