Hows of housing

Published March 26, 2019, 12:40 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Jullie Y. Daza
Jullie Y. Daza

When the water concessionaire reminds you of your late payment and you don’t take heed instantly, it’s “Putol!” – they cut off the service immediately. Ergo, shouldn’t we expect them to compensate us, ahora mismo, after they left us high and dry with no water for days, with no end in sight?

Those are not my words but Rep. Albee Benitez’s. As head of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development who authored the law creating the Department of Housing, could Rep. Benitez all the more ascertain that when such a department is finally standing on its feet, it will build not just houses but houses with water and electricity? Hundreds of houses for the masses built by government have been and are totally unlivable for want of air, water, and light. Blame a gang of state agencies messing up the system under not one roof but many.

When was the last time a government housing project looked home-sweet-home enough? ( I think BLISS in the ‘80s.) The construction of shoeboxes masquerading as houses for Yolanda and Marawi victims, the controversies hounding NHA, HUDCC, Pag-Ibig, etc. in the past (but not forgotten), the rise of Kadamay shelter snatchers, and other instances of corruption built to last should caution us against looking at the new department as a dream-prematurely-come-true.

As my father-in-law’s adorable rather than despicable squatter for many years, I understand the pessimism afflicting millions of homeless families, but Rep. Benitez assured me, “The law will hold the department accountable for all housing concerns.” It would be logical to expect him to head the department – reward or punishment? — but who knows whom the President has in mind?

The objective of the Benitez law is “decent and affordable housing” for those who cannot own a home constructed by the profit-driven private sector, in contrast with government’s mandate to build NOT for profit. “Decent and affordable” go together like doors and windows, it’s key to understanding the failure of mass housing hereabouts. If we could duplicate Singapore’s housing projects for government employees, we’d be the 50th happiest nation on earth!

(More on Thursday.)