Editorial: Taking stock of shelter backlog

THE Local Housing Board reports that at present the city has 59,388 housing backlog, which if addressed the usual way without tenements will be requiring 223 hectares in land area.

By 2022, considering the massive in-migration going on from all over the country, this will grow to 123,000 housing needs which will require 668 hectares.

Obviously, the city now has to look into tenement housing as it is close to impossible to find relocation sites that have economic opportunities and still be affordable. Real estate prices are going up, each square meter has to be maximized and the best way is always to build up.

It's good that the looking housing board is reviewing its shelter plan to address the growing number of informal settlers and this shelter backlog, but we all know this will never be enough.

But it's not a problem exclusive to Davao City, it's a global problem brought about by fast urbanization.

As the World Bank reported, over four billion people around the world, that is more than half of the global population, live in cities and it is fast growing. WB estimates that by 2050, with the urban population doubling its current size, nearly 70 out of 100 people in the world will live in cities.

What we are seeing now is a microcosm of the world situation, except that it has been spurred further by the popularity of the President and consequently his hometown. The city government cannot be allowed to do things slowly and churn out plans after plans. What is direly needed now is action, and fast.

The speed and scale of in-migration poses a challenge that demands quick and decisive actions before the social ills that go hand in hand with poverty and lack of livelihood opportunities settle in. Add to that the worsening extreme weather destructions, a glimpse we've seen when Davao River breached its banks and rendered thousands fleeing their flooded homes overnight. It will be worse.

"By 2030, climate change and natural disasters may cost cities worldwide $314 billion each year, and push 77 million more urban residents into poverty," the WB reported.

What this calls for is not just a review of the local shelter plan, but a comprehensive plan and program for the three basic needs: shelter, food, and clothing. Meaning, along with the shelter plan should be an urban agenda that addresses the economic potentials of the poor to harness these into sustainable gains that will benefit the family through generations to come.

In short, it's making urbanization right and not just waiting to count how many more have arrived and settled in our already congested slums and look around where they can be relocated.

But yes, it's a big challenge that the City Government has to embark in partnership with the private sector and civil society, before we wake up looking like an exact but bigger replica of the wasteland that is Metro Manila.
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