The Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) speeds up the implementation of the national housing program amid the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic. In an online forum titled PH Housing Outlook: Fostering Urban Development, Secretary Eduardo del Rosario shared the agency’s efforts to prop up the housing industry, as reported by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).
Through the BALAI (Building Adequate, Livable, Affordable and Inclusive) initiative, DHSUD, along with key shelter agencies (KSAs), strive to deliver safer, sustainable, and more affordable housing for the underprivileged, especially informal settler families (ISF). Aptly named, “Balai” is a Southeastern vernacular for “house.”
By 2022, the government hopes to have closed the housing gap estimated at 6.57 million units. In his keynote speech, Del Rosario acknowledged that Filipinos, especially the underprivileged, have the right to adequate housing, provided in international law.
It was in 2017 when KSAs formally launched the BALAI housing program, as mentioned in this report from the National Housing Authority (NHA). Following a set of policy thrusts, the initiative strives to fast-track housing production, provide affordable home financing schemes, implement anti-red-tape measures, and develop disaster-resilient communities.
Urgent Need for Housing
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, Del Rosario emphasized the necessity of immediately resolving the need for adequate housing. He also acknowledged the importance of considering health and safety protocols in building communities to prevent the spread of diseases, especially in highly dense neighborhoods.
Housing affordability emerges as a concern as well, given the increased unemployment and loss of livelihood during the pandemic, according to the housing chief. He added that the increasing production expenses coming from the stringent health measures likewise present the need for affordable homes.
Banking on Infrastructure Projects
Del Rosario said that DHSUD is working on relocating tens of thousands of ISFs on the back of the government’s Build, Build, Build program. The boom in infrastructure development is expected to create investment opportunities in real estate development.
Being labor-intensive, housing construction can spur activity in about 80 allied industries, according to the housing chief. Ultimately, this can contribute significantly to the economy and help the country recover from the ill effects of the pandemic.
Bigger Budget Sought
The House of Representatives, meanwhile, is appealing for an increase in the proposed 2021 budget for DHSUD to support the agency’s efforts in accommodating the current housing need, the Manila Bulletin reported.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only approved P3.68 billion for the housing agency, 5.17 percent of its original proposed funding of P77 billion.
Cavite 2nd District Rep. Strike Revilla mentioned that beneficiaries of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program should have access to affordable and socialized housing.
Meanwhile, Iloilo City lone Rep. Julienne Baronda noted that DHSUD’s budget is only .08 percent of the overall 2021 budget. She also said that while the housing need is at 6.57 million by 2022, the numbers may increase as more people have lost their jobs and homes amid the global health crisis.
Home Financing Bill
While lawmakers appeal for a bigger housing budget, they are set to deliberate on a pending bill, which seeks to make housing loans accessible to Filipinos, especially the low-income earners.
House Bills 3541 and 3837 promote the creation of a Comprehensive Home Financing Program (CHFP), allowing all income-earning Filipinos to access fixed, low-interest, long-term housing loans, regardless if they are members of the Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), or the Pag-lBIG Fund, or not.
Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations, Inc. (CREBA) expresses its support for the pending bills, saying that its passage is urgent and necessary to resolve the housing backlog, Manila Times reported.
Under the CHFP, socialized housing loans will have a three percent fixed interest rate for residential units in subdivisions or medium-rise condominium buildings worth P1.5 million and below. A four percent fixed interest rate will be available for economic housing, those that are worth P1.5 million to P3,199,200. The loans will be payable for up to 30 years.
Under the proposed law, Pag-IBIG Fund will release the funds and the National Home Mortgage Finance Corp will serve as the secondary mortgage institution.
Finances will come from the five-year investments of government financing agencies, such as Social Security System (SSS), P25 billion; Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), P25 billion; Pag-IBIG, at least P70 billion; as well as an annual budgetary allocation of P50 billion and P100 billion from unused agri-agra funds.
Sources: PIA, NHA, Manila Bulletin, Manila Times