Proposed Department of Housing promotes homelessness, privatization of public housing

Increasing number of homeless, landless

According to data from the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), among the 88.57 million total population of the Philippines in 2007, there was a 2.04 percent average annual rate of urban poor growth.

Based on the country’s population census, Metro Manila’s population almost doubled from 5.9 million in the 1980s to 11.5 million in 2007. The average annual population growth rate is pegged at 2.36 percent. UPA estimates that Metro Manila’s landless and homeless urban poor number close to five million, or roughly about 800,000 families.In the meantime, 53 percent of families in Metro Manila consider themselves as poor.

Symptomatic of the intensity of the housing crisis is the emergence and growth in the number of so-called “visible homeless.” They are people who live and raise their families in pushcarts or tricycles. Their makeshift homes line breakwater walls, sidewalks and empty streets, parks, beside the railways and esteros, cemeteries, dumpsites and under the bridge. They work during the day and come home to their children in their cramped spaces at night.

Based on reports, for the poorest Filipinos, their income is derived from entrepreneurial activities such as selling food on street corners or collecting recyclable materials to sell to junkyards. Those belonging to the “higher” income strata obtain a bigger share of their incomes from wages as factory workers or janitorial staff. Most of the poor are lowland landless agricultural workers, lowland small farm owners and cultivators, industrial wage laborers, hawkers , micro-entrepreneurs, and scavengers. Majority of them originally came from rural areas, where they suffered from the low productivity of agricultural employment. In the hopes of finding better paying employment, they went to the urban centers. Urban poverty is caused by low household incomes and the internal migration of poor rural families to urban areas.

Rosalinda Nartates, president of the the Consolidated Union of Employees-NHA says that the government is setting the stage for the deregulation and the operationalization of various housing finance and multi-window schemes so that big business may invest in socialized or mass housing.(Photo by Ina Alleco R. Silverio /

“Now we have all these Filipinos who don’t have regular paying jobs or their wages are barely enough to keep their families fed. How will they ever buy their own houses? Many can barely afford rent. Public housing in the Philippines is a myth, and the government allots only one percent of the national budget for it. Privatizing what remains of public housing funds and services will completely destroy all hopes of ordinary Filipinos to ever own houses they can call their own,” Nartates explained.

Critics say that the creation of DHUD will not resolve the housing crisis. They say that its proponents ignore the realities of economic maldevelopment and the resulting mass poverty which are in fact the greatest cause of urban homelessness. Past and previous governments view the housing problem as simply the absence of shelter infrastructure.

In the meantime, based on the reckoning of the NHA union, the DHUD will also bolster corruption in government.

“The DHUD will result in the lay off of thousands of employees, but it will, on the other hand, create more board and management positions with per diems and other perks. There will be a Secretary, at least two Undersecretaries and three or more assistant secretaries, four Bureaus and three Services and Regional Offices. The DHUD bills propose boards comprised of at least 11 up to 20 members. The government wants to create another layer of bureaucracy that will eat more of its already scanty funds, funds that should be allotled for social services including public housing,” said Nartate.

Houses for soldiers, police

In seeming contrast to how the government’s failure to provide housing for the poorer members of society, President Aquino last April 11 ordered the allocation of P4.2 billion ($97.6 million) to build 20,000 houses for soldiers and police officers. Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr.said that the P4.2 billion will be used to to build 20,000 houses for low-salaried members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) as part of improving the welfare of government employees.

Ochoa said President Aquino signed Administrative Order No. 9 creating the AFP/PNP Housing Project, which involves the provision of permanent shelters for soldiers and policemen who will qualify under the beneficiaries selection criteria of the program.

“It is the policy of this administration to improve the welfare of government employees, including military and police personnel,” said Ochoa in a statement.

“Providing decent and affordable shelter for soldiers and policemen is one way of carrying out such a policy, as we are aware that despite sincere efforts, there are still a large number of military and police personnel whose need for housing must be urgently attended to,” he said.

But even as Malacañang gears to provide houses for government armed forces, another agency has stated that the government has very poor capabilities to provide houses for its poor constituents, case in point residents of demolished urban poor communities.

In July 2010, the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) admitted that the government’s Emergency Land Acquisition Assistance for Victims of Eviction and Demolition (ELAVED) program has limitations. This was after the release of a Commission on Audit (COA) report that stated the government “failed to effectively implement the program’s objective of responding to the emergency needs of demolished underprivileged families with no relocation assistance.”

It said that its mandate to help relocate poor families “covers only the land acquisition phase to ensure security of tenure of victims of unprogrammed demolition.”

“Because of this limitation, the PCUP has started forging partnerships with different sectors of society for the land development, core housing and community organizing to ensure the project’s sustainability and to include several phases in tenure security,” officer-in-charge Romeo Lagahit said in a letter to the media.

The COA found that from 2005 to 2009, PCUP targeted 5,837 beneficiaries but only 854 actually benefited from the ELAVED program. The PCUP is also supportive of moves to create the DHUD. (

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