Homelessness to worsen with new housing agency, Cha-cha

The super agency would further increase the cost of “socialized housing,” enrich real estate developers and, justify and speed up the eviction and demolition of informal settlers.


MANILA — The proposed revisions in the 1987 Philippine Constitution and the creation of a new housing agency spell double whammy for the poor.

Urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) maintained that the creation of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) would aggravate the housing crisis in the country.

In its critique to House Bill 6775 or the proposed DHSUD, Kadamay said the super agency would further increase the cost of “socialized housing,” enrich real estate developers and, justify and speed up the eviction and demolition of informal settlers.

The House of Representatives approved the bill, Feb. 13 while the Senate passed, on second reading, its counterpart measure.

The bill will consolidate the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB). The new department will be the sole and main planning and policy-making, regulatory, program coordination, and performance monitoring body for all housing, human settlement and urban development concerns.

The department is tasked to formulate and adopt a national strategy to swiftly provide adequate and affordable housing to all Filipinos. It will create “Socialized Housing One-stop Processing Centers (SHOPCs)” which will centralize the processing of all permits, clearances and licenses relating to applications for socialized housing.

More expensive ‘socialized housing’

The housing crisis could not be underestimated. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has ranked Metro Manila as the first in the world in terms of homelessness with around 3.1 million individuals, 1.2 million of whom are children, without a home.

The HB 6775 would raise the price of ‘socialized housing,’ which would result in more evictions.

The bill allows revisions in ceilings for socialized housing anytime but not more than once every two years “to conform to prevailing economic conditions.” This means higher amortization rates.

Kadamay has long been pointed out that the problem lies with affordability and accessibility of ‘socialized housing’ units.

The group revealed that a 22 square-meter housing unit in Pandi, Bulacan, for example, costs P305,000. In-city relocation housing units, meanwhile, range from P400,000 to P600,000. For example, a Bistekville unit does not require down payment but still has an amortization of P2,274 per month over a period of 30 years.

In Northville and Southville alone, more than 600,000 resettled residents are threatened of eviction after they failed to pay amortization for their units.

Documents from NHA showed that as of 2016, only seven percent of accounts are updated in payments. Out of the P8.36 billion receivable balance already due, the agency was able to collect P606 million in 2016.

(Photo by Chantal Eco / Tudla Productions)

From 2011 to 2016, the National Housing Authority built more than 190,000 housing units. A 2016 report from the Commission on Audit (COA) showed, however, that 60 percent of these houses remain idle until today.

Instead of resolving the present housing crisis, HB 6775 will only make the problems worse.

More money for private developers

Under the bill, the DHSUD may “enter into contracts, joint venture agreements, public-private partnerships (PPP) and memoranda of agreement or understanding, either domestic or foreign, under such terms and conditions that the department may deem proper and reasonable and subject to existing laws.”

As of now, private developers have been enjoying incentives that make it easier for them to earn profits from socialized housing, while poor families are burdened with monthly amortization. According to independent think tank Ibon Foundation, private companies get 30 percent off on taxable income from its profit, which is granted when a real estate project is negotiated as part of socialized housing compliance to Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (UDHA).

UDHA also exempts the private sector from paying the following: capital gains tax on raw lands used for the project; value-added tax for the project contractor concerned; transfer tax for both raw completed projects, and donor’s tax for lands certified by the local government units to have been donated for socialized housing purposes.

Moreover, through the PPPs, private companies engaged in “socialized housing” get guaranteed payments from the government.

Ibon Foundation noted that major players in the development of supposedly low-cost housing units include real estate giants such as Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) and Phinma Property Holdings Corp.

In 2016 alone, the NHA paid more than P15 billion to private contractors in ‘socialized housing.’

Kadamay said the new department would speed up the construction of housing units through the so-called one-stop processing centers. This is good for business but bad for the poor who would not be able to afford the housing units.

The proposed Charter Change will allow foreign corporations to own land, to exploit and use the country’s natural resources, among others. Since the new department will have the mandate to enter into contracts with foreign companies, more infrastructure and other ‘urban development’ projects will push the urban poor out of their homes.

The bill defines urban development as the process of occupation and use of land or for residential, industrial, commercial purposes. Foreign corporations, by entering into contracts with the department, would have their say in defining urban development for Filipinos.

Demolition left and right

The DSHUD can exercise “oversight, develop and establish a monitor on the sector’s performance and be involved in the housing and urban development and ensure continuing improvements in sector policy and strategy formation.” For Kadamay, this means speeding up the demolition process.

The bill merely refers to existing laws such as the UDHA, which, Kadamay said, has only provided steps on how to drive away poor families from their homes.

For this year alone, Kadamay said 200,000 families are set to lose their homes due to Duterte’s Build, Build, Build program. To implement the big-ticket infrastructure projects, the government has allocated P35 billion for “right-of way” (ROW) acquisitions, which spell demolition for informal settlers.

Meanwhile, the proponents of Charter change are pushing for the deletion of Article 13, Sec. 10 of the Philippine Constitution, which read:

“Urban or rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwelling demolished, except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner.

No resettlement of urban or rural dwellers shall be undertaken without adequate consultation with them and the communities where they are to be relocated.”

Kadamay said that this would mean more violent demolition of shanties and would deny informal settlers the right to relocation.

The urban poor group also decried the deprivation of their right to seek redress for grievances. The creation of Human Settlements Adjudication Commission (HSAC) under HB 6775 grants the department immense judiciary power over disputes relating to land and housing, essentially replacing the functions of the actual court system in the country. A representative from the private sector will sit in as a commissioner to handle such disputes. Kadamay said the Department, along with the commission, would have the power to decide on matters based on their vested interests.

Michael Beltran, public information officer of Kadamay, said in a roundtable discussion last week, “The urban poor have no recourse but to defend their homes and livelihood.”

Taking lessons from Kadamay’s Occupy movement last year, Beltran said, “The poor are powerful when they come together.” (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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