Rental subsidy for informal settlers sought

In a bid to save lives, a House leader has filed a measure that would dangle rental subsidies to qualified informal settler beneficiaries (ISBs) and in the process discourage them from living in so-called danger zones.

Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte's House Bill (HB) No.7008 is designed to place these ISBs in permanent homes available in the formal housing market where they are deemed safer and on the right side of the law, as opposed to staying on public and privately-owned lands.

Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte

Villafuerte said that based on Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data, there are about 4.5 million homeless people in the country, three million of whom are in Metro Manila. 

“This number is possibly the most in any city in the world as estimated by some organizations,” he said. "Poverty is not the sole reason for homelessness. The unique condition of the Philippines being in the Asia-Pacific region exposes our citizens to various disasters that are not apparent in other countries where housing is likewise a problem.” 

Villafuerte said that on average, some 20 typhoons pass through the Philippines annually, aside from frequent seismic activity due to its place in the Pacific Ring of Fire. He said that yphoon "Yolanda," which struck the central islands in 2013, rendered more than 4.4 million people homeless.

For eligible ISBs below the poverty threshold as determined by the PSA, HB No.7008 provides a rental subsidy of at least 50 percent of the total amount of rentals.

It also says that the subsidy shall be determined by taking into consideration, among others, the prevailing rental rates in the concerned locality where the ISBs will relocate to and their economic standing and potential. 

The Bicol solon said his measure aims to establish a “housing and social protection program”  with the end goal of “enabling informal settler-beneficiaries to lead decent lives and supporting them in accessing the formal housing market.” 

The bill states that the Rental Housing Subsidy program will be implemented by the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), which will also be responsible for coordinating with housing agencies in formulating program targets and then integrating such goals into the national housing policy.