EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a column of Charlie A. V. Gorayeb, national chairman of CREBA (Chamber of Real Estate & Builders’ Associations, Inc.)
The Chamber of Real Estate & Builders’ Associations, Inc. (CREBA) has petitioned government’s transport and human settlements departments for the inclusion of sites for affordable housing in areas within walking distance of the railway stations that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is either currently constructing, designing, or planning.
With government providing the land, private housing developers can take care of constructing the housing units in transit-oriented locations. This partnership can significantly increase the supply of decent housing and, hence, improve the quality of life of a large number of still homeless Filipinos around the country.
The Philippines has undoubtedly an enormous need for affordable housing, estimated to be almost seven million at present and can increase to 20 million by 2040 unless tangible solutions are done by government. Of this huge number, 1.9 million are informal settler families — 478,899 of such families live within Metro Manila, occupying many of our waterways and danger zones, which have been identified by DPWH as priority for clearing and improvement to prevent future widespread flooding in the metropolis.
Attempts by previous administrations to address the massive housing need and relocate the informal settler families to disaster-free areas have failed miserably. The main obstacle is the lack of available land in places where jobs and livelihood opportunities are concentrated. But now, the DOTr’s various transport projects have opened up enormous opportunities to address the need for affordable housing with easy access to jobs and livelihood centers via improved mass transit systems.
As a concrete and immediate example, the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) that DOTr has started to construct to connect the Clark International Airport in Pampanga to Calamba in Laguna presents a promising solution through transit-oriented development (TOD).
Under the TOD concept, including sites for affordable housing near the stations upon land acquisition for the station buildings and its support facilities will provide private housing developers with sites to build the required housing units mandated of them by Republic Act 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act, as amended by Republic Act 10884 in 2016, thus contributing to the reduction of the housing backlog as well as to the resettlement of the families still living in danger zones.
For example, if only 10 percent of the 500-meter radius TOD areas of the six stations under Phase 1 of the NSCR were allocated for affordable housing, this can produce at least 37,000 housing units that can accommodate some 185,000 people. This may be small compared with the housing backlog, but it is a start that can catalyze a continuous initiative to meet the increasing housing need all over the country.
CREBA has tapped the support of the DOTr and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) in recognition of the important roles that the two agencies play in national development, and the enormous potential contribution that they can both make in addressing the escalating problem of slums and homelessness.
These departments’ mandates have direct impacts on the two crucial elements of affordable housing: land allocation and housing production. Through the TOD approach, DOTr can provide the land necessary for the construction of the housing units, while DHSUD can facilitate the efficient delivery of the housing units in partnership with private housing developers.
CREBA feels confident that this type of program, coupled with a creative long-term, low-interest, and self-liquidating home financing scheme, the government and the private developers sector can establish a solid foundation for effectively meeting the housing needs of Filipinos now and in the years to come.