The House of Representatives passed on final reading Thursday, March 25, a bill seeking the grant of rental subsidies to informal settler families (ISFs) while waiting for permanent housing.
With 189 affirmative votes, six objections and no abstention, the lower chamber approved on third and final reading, House Bill No. 8736, which calls for a “Rental Housing Subsidy Program”, to provide “social protection and support” to ISFs.
The bill defines ISFs as “households living on a lot, private or public, without the consent of the property owner; or those without legal claim over the property they are occupying; or those living in danger areas such as esteros, railroad tracks, garbage dumps, riverbanks, shorelines, and waterways.”
The program could also be made an option to address the temporary relocation of families displaced by natural and man-made disasters.
Under the proposal, eligible ISFs in Metro Manila shall receive a rental subsidy of P3,500, while the rate for those living in other regions will be determined by the government based on existing minimum wage and rental rates “but not to exceed P3,500”.
The Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) may review or revise the rates of the subsidy at least once every two years to consider prevailing economic conditions.
The rental subsidy will be given to the beneficiaries until the completion of the permanent housing project for them. In case of a delay, the subsidy will be extended.
To be eligible for the program and to continue receiving the subsidy, the bill states that ISFs must vacate the informal settlement area. They should not move back unless the return has been permitted by proper government authorities.
The beneficiaries must also shoulder the portion of rental fee not covered by the subsidy.
“Beneficiaries who maintain good payment standing shall be prioritized…in government housing programs,” the bill reads.
In opposing the passage of House bill, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas said the proposed rental subsidy program will only be temporary and will not help in keep poor families in permanent homes.
“Sa aktwal, pampadulas ito para mas madaling maisagawa ang demolisyon ng mga komunidad at bigyang daan ang mga proyektong pang-imprastrakturang ‘Build, Build, Build’ (Actually, this is just grease money so the government can easily pursue demolitions for its ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure projects),” Brosas claimed.
“Sa katunayan, ginagamit itong iskemang rental subsidy sa Tondo para silawin ang mga residente ng lump sum cash assistance kapalit ng pag-alis nila sa kanilang tirahan (In fact, this rental subsidy scheme is already being used in Tondo, Manila, to lure residents into accepting lump sum cash assistance in exchange of them vacating their homes),” she added.
“Panandalian ito at nakadisensyo para i-facilitate ang dislokasyon ng nga pamilya (This is temporary and designed to facilitate the dislocation of families),” Brosas maintained.