P270-billion housing funds for long-term, affordable loans

Published March 8, 2021, 3:51 AM

by Manila Bulletin

(Editor’s Note: This is a column written by CREBA National Chairman Charlie A.V. Gorayeb)

Pressed by the urgent need to stimulate the national economy toward full post-COVID recovery, the country’s largest organization of real estate and housing industry players is pushing for the passage of House Bills 3541 and 3837 filed by Rep. Micaela S. Violago and Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez, respectively, to create a Comprehensive Home Financing Program (CHFP) that will make all income-earning Filipinos entitled to fixed, low-interest, long-term housing loans whether or not they are members of the Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), or the Pag-IBIG Fund.

The Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations, Inc. (CREBA) finds it urgent and necessary if the national government is truly serious in addressing the country’s 6.57 million housing backlog, which has grown in unprecedented leaps and bounds amid inadequate housing programs over the years.

This, amid recent Congressional efforts to pass House Resolution No. 1468 calling for the declaration of a housing crisis and urging the immediate mobilization of government resources to accelerate housing production for underserved families.

To fulfill its Constitutional duty to deliver housing for its people, government must provide affordable and long-term sources of home loans for the millions of homeless Filipinos, especially the low-income earners.

Under the twin bills, the annual CHFP funding of P270 billion will be sourced through bond investments by the SSS at P25 billion; GSIS at P25 billion; a minimum of P70 billion or all of Pag-IBIG Fund’s investible funds for housing in accordance with their respective charters; P100 billion from the unused or residual agri-agra funds of banks, plus a P50 billion government budgetary allocation to serve the informal settlers’ segment for 20 years — all with mandatory guaranty cover from the Home Guaranty Corporation.

CREBA is pushing for the passage of House Bills 3541 and 3837 that will create a Comprehensive Home Financing Program (CHFP) allowing all income-earning Filipinos to be entitled to fixed, low-interest, long-term housing loans, whether or not they are members of the SSS, GSIS, or the Pag-IBIG Fund.

The CHFP will be designed exclusively for home loan borrowers with no component for development financing. This, according to the author, is to ensure the use of funds strictly for shelter acquisition by the homeless. If passed into law, the bill amends Republic Act 7835 or the Comprehensive and Integrated Shelter Finance Act (CISFA) of 1994.

These fund sources have, in fact, been identified by various existing laws and the concerned agencies’ respective charters and need only to be integrated for effective administration to socialized and economic housing beneficiaries.

Payable up 30 years, CHFP loans for residential units in subdivisions or medium-rise condominium buildings shall be P1.5 million and below at three percent fixed interest rate for socialized housing, and above P1.5 million up to P3,199,200 at four percent for economic housing, which shall remain VAT-free.

The bill appoints Pag-IBIG Fund to administer the loans with the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC) acting as secondary mortgage institution.

All income-earning citizens who qualify as beneficiaries under the Urban Development and Housing Act and who have not acquired housing assistance from any government institution shall be eligible for home loans through the CHFP.

The high collection efficiency by Pag-IBIG Fund will be maintained by empowering it to deputize employers, whether public or private, in the prompt collection of housing loan amortizations.

Intensifying housing production is a win-win solution as it creates a wide-ranging economic value-chain that positively impacts consumption, jobs and taxes and improves the overall quality of life of people, which is much-needed in our collective efforts to recover from the staggering effects of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

The CHFP will likewise solve the perennial dismal funding allocation for housing, despite having a full-fledged Human Settlements Department, which averages to a measly 0.74 percent of the national budget since 2010 against a housing shortfall of 6.57 million units to date.

House Bills 3541 and 3837 provide us a complete and doable shelter finance package, and we hope that Congress will steer its immediate passage into law to bring about the urgently needed panacea to our long-standing housing woes.