NHA to recall rented out, unoccupied housing units

Published June 16, 2021, 5:10 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The National Housing Authority (NHA) warned on Wednesday, June 16, that it will revoke the awards given to housing beneficiaries who refuse to occupy or are caught renting out their houses.

The National Housing Authority logo (MANILA BULLETIN)

NHA General Manager Marcelino Escalada Jr. said during a hearing of the Senate housing committee that they discovered that some of the housing units it granted were leased by beneficiaries to other individuals for rental fees at least eight times high as their monthly amortization to the government.

“My instruction was to cancel the award, because kumikita pa si original awardee (the original awardee profits from it)…Our housing project is only ₱250, ₱300, ₱500 per month and they are renting it out at ₱3,000 [to] ₱4,000,” Escalada told the senators, citing his recent visit to a government housing site.

He said no resident, though, would admit that they were renters but eventually confessed when the NHA offered the housing unit to them.

“If you admit that you are a renter, I will cancel the original award…and you pay to me ₱500 and you get the ₱2,500 as your savings,” Escalada recalled telling the renters.

Asked by Senator Francis Tolentino on why some houses remain unoccupied despite the award, Escalada said some were given to soldiers and policemen who residing or were assigned in areas far from the housing sites.

“They only later realize that a police officer from Pampanga got an award in Ilocos, and Army soldier or sergeant of Ilocos got an award in Maguindanao. That is the very reason, that is why they haven’t occupied physically their awards. But they cannot also withdraw that because nasasayangan sila sa opportunity to get one,” the NHA head said.

“But right now, as we speak, the policy is this…if no one occupies and no one seems to live in a particular site, we will automatically cancel the award and reaward it to whoever is interested to get the award…And whoever is the actual beneficiary that do not actually occupy [the housing unit] is automatically cancelled,” he assured.

He, however, admitted that they cannot just evict beneficiaries from the housing program especially when they have been paying their dues to the government.

Eviction is also not part of the NHA’s charter.

“Since they have already paid, your honor, NHA is not in a position to cancel that, until there is violation of our policy on non-payment of amortization,” Escalada explained.

“Even though not occupied, we cannot cancel the award because it’s paid,” he conceded.

Tolentino said the NHA should devise a policy where non-occupation of beneficiaries for a certain period of time would result in the revocation of the award, and that a reasonable portion of their payments would be returned.

“As a public good it has to benefit the general public. If it is not occupied, even though you consider it as a [private] property, it deviates from the original purpose of benefitting the homeless; the urban poor, na nangangailangan ng bahay (who are really in need of permanent homes),” he pointed out.

From the 55,000 unoccupied houses in 2018, the NHA said only 3,800 remained empty and unawarded to date.

The majority were already re-awarded to government officials and informal settler families, Escalada said.