Lapid to gov’t: Address housing backlog through a usufruct program for poor Filipino families

Published September 7, 2022, 10:59 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid is confident the government can address the issue of homelessness among underprivileged Filipino families through the passage of a bill granting free housing through usufruct.

Senator Lito Lapid (Senate PRIB)

In filing Senate Bill No. 1232, or the proposed Free Housing Through Usufruct Act of 2022, Lapid said homeless and underprivileged Filipinos can have access to safe, decent, and affordable housing through a usufruct housing program.

The senator said the bill seeks to establish a usufruct housing program to allow beneficiaries free use of the property as a usufructuary, where the State retains the ownership and title of the said property.

In his explanatory note, the senator from Pampanga said that since the early 1990s, various government housing finance programs have offered long-term and low-interest rate loans to indigent Filipinos, but these “unfortunately failed” due to mortgage defaults and poor collection efforts, among others.

“Even with the existence of low-cost housing, which should be inexpensive, the same cannot still be afforded by the intended beneficiaries,” Lapid noted.

Most times, the lawmaker said beneficiaries of these housing programs would rather sell the housing units instead of using it for their families to earn money.

“Noon pa man, kahit na mayroong nang mga murang pabahay ang gobyerno, kadalasan ay hindi pa rin ito kayang bayaran ng mga benepisyaryo (Even back then, even if the government offers free housing, beneficiaries still cannot afford it),” he pointed out.

“Kaya ito pong ating isinusulong na panukalang batas ay layunin nang makapagbigay ng libreng pabahay sa mga mga kapus-palad at mga pamilyang Pilipinong walang tirahan, na walang anumang lupang pagmamay-ari saanman sa bansa, sa pamamagitan ng usufruct (That’s why we are pushing for this measure which seeks to provide free housing to poor Filipinos families who are homeless and have no assets any where in the country through a usufruct),” Lapid stressed.

Lapid said the bill would only benefit underprivileged and homeless Filipinos without known ownership of any real property anywhere in the country.

However, local government units (LGUs) and other government agencies may extend the benefit to qualified personnel as part of its employee housing program.

Also under the measure, charges for utilities such as electricity, water and communication shall be paid by the beneficiaries unless otherwise provided for by the LGU as included in the usufruct contract.

The bill also mandates the National Housing Authority (NHA) to provide financial and technical assistance to the LGUs in the implementation of the program.

Regardless of ownership of title to the properties subject of the program, the LGU where the housing project is located will be responsible for the management and maintenance of the properties under the program.

Lapid, however said, beneficiaries may lose their privilege, should they commit any of the prohibited acts provided under the proposed law which includes—but is not limited to—leasing, renting, selling or in any other matter transferring possession of the awarded property.