Under 1 roof

Published March 28, 2019, 12:38 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Jullie Y. Daza
Jullie Y. Daza

President Duterte was inspecting a new housing project for soldiers. The first house he saw had two bedrooms. “Two bedrooms, good. You have two wives?” he teased the soldier-owner.

It’s no laughing matter that when Kadamay shelter snatchers rushed in to invade long abandoned, never-occupied houses meant for policemen and the military, the President found himself promising the men in uniform, “Let them take over, I will give you better, bigger homes.” Word was that from 25 sqm the floor area of such houses has since grown to 65.

According to Rep. Albee Benitez, author of the law creating the Department of Human Settlements, a 24 sq m house, which is the usual size of public housing units, is just enough for three persons, the standard being 7sq m per person. An extreme interpretation of this cramped space is that government would love to see every couple limiting their family size to one child so they can fit comfortably into their Pag-Ibig-financed homes. Aha, love is having one child between two parents.

If one-child families are rare in this country, so are outstanding examples of “decent and affordable” – nice and cheap — homes that remain a dream even for those who have successfully hurdled loan and financing requirements. Nonetheless, said Rep. Benitez, “The dream can be achieved” for 6 million houseless people because “it’s easy for government to get idle land, all 3,400 hectares of it.” Squatters, aka informal settlers, inhabit 1,200 ha of the total.

Once Human Settlements as a department becomes a reality in the next six months, its first task will be to “rationalize” the different agencies and put them under one roof, starting with Pag-Ibig to fund members’ dreams of owning a house and HUDCC to build the houses.

“From Manila informal settlers have fanned out to Quezon City, their next move will be to Clark,” predicted the congressman. Going by his statistics, 30 years from now 70 percent of Filipinos will be living in cities. Who knows how high the cost of living will be by then?