By CHARLIE A. V. GORAYEB
So much has been said about the need to reduce, if not eliminate, the country’s massive housing backlog in the shortest time possible. Yet, despite the unparalleled and widely-recognized socio-economic benefits of housing as a centerpiece program, since the martial law years, we have yet to see an administration fully dedicate itself to this effort via concrete, meaningful legislative measures.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Chamber of Real Estate & Builders’ Associations, Inc. (CREBA) has been echoing the core of our housing woes: some 43 percent of the country’s total urban population live in slums; about 5.2 million Filipino households subsist below the poverty threshold; and at least nine million more fall into the low-income bracket. To date, some 6.7 million of these households do not own their dwellings; and those in the lowest 32 percent income percentile, which government shelter programs must prioritize, can afford less than ₱2,000 for monthly housing expenditures.
These statistics are not our own fiction, but from authoritative sources such as the World Bank, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and the National Urban Development and Housing Framework (NUDHF) of what has become the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), the passage of an enabling for which CREBA supported for 27 years until its fruition three years ago.
Apart from the obvious need, making housing the centerpiece program is not only a social imperative, but an economic one. This is because of housing’s tremendous output multiplier, income multiplier and labor multiplier effects — as economic and financial experts worldwide acknowledge.
Our Constitution mandates government to look upon all sectors with equal favor. Yet, annual government appropriations for housing against a backdrop of 6.7 million landless and homeless Filipino households has been dishearteningly small.
True, Congress has enacted the landmark Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA), as amended by Republic Act No. 10884 of 2016 backed as well by CREBA, which compels both private subdivision and condominium developers to produce socialized housing equivalent to 15 percent and five percent, respectively, of their total project cost or area, yet its supposed performance has not served to de-escalate the problem. CREBA believes the reason to be simply:
Restrictive land access. Land in urban areas where the poor congregate is much too expensive to build homes for the lowest 30 percent income percentile, while cheaper lands in sub-urban or urbanizable areas are locked up in the CARP.
Extremely limited homebuyer financing. While relatively cheap home buyer financing is available under the Pag-IBIG program, the agency’s funds are limited leaving the informal sector or non-members effectively locked out.
Lack of funds for public housing. The repayment schemes for NHA’s housing projects are affordable by those in lowest 30 percent income percentile, but NHA funding is simply too limited to allow a massive volume of housing production.
Governance issues. Over-regulation, over-taxation and bureaucratic delays among others — all of which add to the already high cost of housing units — actually negate the government’s policy pronouncements to make housing affordable.
Admittedly, as a private organization, all we can really do is intensify our advocacy efforts — and in this, as its record of advocacies and achievements would show, CREBA has not been remiss.
Our members — we are extremely proud to say — have not been remiss either. They have gladly embraced the balanced housing quotas under the UDHA, despite the extreme difficulties in compliance and unprofitability of the endeavor.Still, in the ultimate analysis, we in the private shelter sector can do only what the operating environment that the government creates allows us to do.
As the sounding board of the housing sector, CREBA is once again consolidating the collective experiences and expertise of its members in pushing for its five-point housing agenda, drafted into various bills and recommendations to either amend, rationalize, streamline or beef up existing laws and policies on housing.
It is perhaps time for our country’s leaders to match our sector’s commitment with equal fervor and concrete action. The new administration and implementing agencies should provide this hope.
(Charlie A. V. Gorayeb is the national chairman of Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations (CREBA), the largest umbrella association of developers, builders, contractors, supplies manufacturers and professionals engaged in housing and various types of real estate development. )