The proposed Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD) is not the answer to the current housing problem in the Philippines: it will even create a monstrous problem: soaring housing prices and land-use conversions that would result to food insecurity.
BY NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Vol. VIII, No. 29, August 24-30, 2008
QUEZON CITY—For employees of the biggest housing organization of the government, the National Housing Authority (NHA), the proposed Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD)—which would be a super-agency for housing and land development—would only worsen the housing problem of the country.
In a position paper read at the House of Representatives days after the 14th Congress resumed its regular session, Consolidated Union of Employees of the National Housing Authority (CUE-NHA) president Rose Nartates said that the proposed DHUD is only a profiteering scheme by the government and by big real estate conglomerates interested in developing low and medium-cost housing in the country.
She also even said that the DHUD would “seal” the state’s abandonment of its responsibility to provide housing for the poor.
A short history of the DHUD proposal
The idea to create a housing and urban development super-body was first put forward in 2003.
Five years after, legislators have yet to pass a bill creating such a super-body. This, according to CUE-NHA – a member-union of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) – is because of the NHA employees’ strong opposition to the proposed measure.
There are five bills pending in Congress which propose the creation of a DHUD:
a. House Bill 336 or An Act rationalizing the housing sector thereby creating the Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD), defining its structure, providing for its powers and functions and for other purposes, which was authored by Rep. Joseph Emilio A. Abaya;
b. House Bill 402 or the Omnibus Housing and Urban Development Act by Rep. Eduardo C. Zialcita;
c. House Bill 429 or An Act creating the Department of Housing and Resettlement, abolishing the existing housing agencies, defining its powers and functions, providing funds therefore and or other purposes by Rep. Raul Del Mar;
d. House Bill 2473 or An Act creating the DHUD, rationalizing the organization and functions of government agencies and corporations related to housing and urban development, and for other purposes by Rep. Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon; and
e. House Bill 2698 or An Act creating the DHUD, prescribing its powers, functions and duties, providing funds therefore and for other purposes by Rep. Rodolfo G. Valencia.
“Even though some government agencies related to housing have withdrawn their support to the creation of the DHUD and requesting for the empowerment of the individual agencies instead, the said legislators are very much willing to pursue the creation of the DHUD,” disclosed Nartates in the legislative agenda meeting with Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Rafael Mariano last Aug. 7.
Rationalization among housing agencies
According to Nartates, the rationalization or the downsizing of the workforce in the housing agencies is the primary goal of the creation of the DHUD.
“At the NHA alone, at least 1,600 regular and tenured employees are under threat of losing their jobs,” says Nartates.
Upon the merging of the seven Key Shelter Agencies (KSA)—Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Mutual Fund Development Corporation (PAG-IBIG fund), Home Guarantee Corporation, Housing and Urban Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), National Home Mortgage and Finance Corporation and the NHA—more than 6,000 employees would lose their jobs, added Nartates.
“These employees have spent the most productive years of their lives at these offices, manning the frontline delivery of services no matter how inadequate these may be. The DHUD bills are blatantly clear with regard to the security of tenure of the employees. By deregulation, abolition, reorientation, and downsizing of offices and functions, the lesser rank and file personnel shall be the casualties,” she said.
Notwithstanding the supposed safety nets, assurance of re-hiring, or manpower pooling and training and even retirement and separation packages, nothing can placate the anxieties of the employees who need their jobs at this point when unemployment has reached a record high of 13.9 percent, said the CUE president.
Aggravating urban homelessness and rural landlessness
Now that demolition of urban poor dwellings seems to be a trend, this would be aggravated by the creation of the DHUD, the position paper of CUE said.
Under the DHUD Act, within 90 to 180 days after the passage of the bill, identification and designation of lands for housing and development use shall be undertaken.
“This can be used as another convenient excuse by landowners for land conversion and exemption from the coverage of the land reform program of the government. Even the reclamation of lands that are supposed to be part of the national patrimony shall be allowed supposedly for ‘public use and public purpose’, but essentially this is a loophole to allow private development and eventually ownership,” reads the position paper of CUE.
This, according to the members of CUE, is the empowerment of the landlord class and the multinational companies interested in developing Philippine lands.