Sen. Go bats for housing for poor, homeless families

Published August 27, 2020, 3:09 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has called for the immediate passage of bills seeking to enhance and finance national housing programs, and to provide accessible housing services for the homeless and underprivileged.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go (OFFICE OF SEN. BONG GO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Let me reiterate that the need for proper and adequate housing has been a perennial problem plaguing the country since time immemorial. I have witnessed first-hand the situation of our fellow countrymen sa pag-iikot ko at pagbibigay tulong sa mga nasunugan (in going around to provide assistance to fire victims),”Go said during a Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement hearing, where he sits as the committee vice chairman.

At dahil sa pandemic, nadagdagan pa sila ng bagong kalbaryo. Nakakaawa po sila. Bigyan po natin sila ng pagkakataong makamit ang kanilang pangarap na magkaroon ng kanilang sariling bahay (And due to the pandemic, their sufferings were added. I pity them. Let’s give them the opportunity to have their own houses),” he added, emphasizing that every Filipino family deserves a decent home.

Senate Bill (SB) 203, also called the National Housing Development, Production and Financing (NHDPF) Bill, was filed by Go last July 2019. It seeks to generate and mobilize funds to increase low-cost housing production; provide support mechanisms to improve access to housing options; guarantee the development of a strong, sustainable, accessible and affordable housing finance system; and increase private sector participation, among others.

The bill directs the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) to implement the component programs of the NHDPF program.

The bill cited data from the Philippine Statistical Research and Training Institute which estimates the country’s housing demand will grow to more than 6.57 million units from 2017 to 2022.

The institute projects demand will further rise to 22.6 million units by the end of 2040. Meanwhile, the population of Informal Settler Families (ISFs) in the country is also continuing to increase. There are nearly two million ISFs as of 2019.

Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, stressed that limited appropriations have hampered the government’s ability to provide millions of Filipinos with their basic right of shelter. Less than one percent of the annual national budget is put towards pro-poor housing programs.

He stressed a large-scale program which could cut through the bureaucratic red tape and consolidate adequate resources needed to implement the major components of the National Development and Production Housing Program (MDPHP).

In his manifestation, Go also sought support for SB 1227, or the Rental Housing Subsidy Program Act, which he filed December 10 of last year.

The bill seeks to provide families displaced by natural and man-made disasters with improved access to the formal housing market by offering a rental subsidy.

Based on the bill, the amount of the subsidy will be determined by the DHSUD. It will be a percentage of the total amount of rentals as determined by the rental or lease contract between the eligible beneficiary and the lessor.

For eligible beneficiaries below the poverty threshold as determined by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the subsidy will be at least 50 percent of the total amount of rentals.

The bill also seeks to help displaced families sustain their livelihood through skills and training programs to be offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Go cited data showing that the Philippines experiences frequent seismic activity and typhoons every year which destroy homes, livelihoods and lives.

In 2013, the supertyphoon Yolanda displaced more than 4.4 million Filipinos or 1,143,332 families.

Go expressed his support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s call made during his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) urging for the passage of the housing measures which would “enable all Filipinos—regardless of social status—to live in decent homes”.