Housing mired in rising costs, investment risks

    Beyond shelter. Filipinos need settlements that promote health security and productivity.

    The Philippines is producing just less than a quarter of the housing unitss required to meet demand in the face of an expected over 6 million unit backlog by 2022.

    In his speech at the Housing Talks of the Organization of Socialized Housing Developers of the Philippines, Rep. Francisco Benitez, of the third district of Negros Occidental, said high cost and too much regulation have prevented developers from addressing the immediate and long-term housing needs of Filipinos that has resulted into what he called in a housing emergency.

    Benitez, chairman of the House committee on Housing and Urban Development, said while it has been almost 50 years since the enactment of the Republic Act No. 7279, a landmark law designed to address homelessness, the housing problem is as bad, if not worse due to population growth, as it was in 1992.

    Benitez lamented the fact that government housing programs have consistently been severely underfunded with the average annual spending a measly .74 percent of the national budget from 2010 to 2021.

    He said the backlog, by 2022, is estimated to be greater than 6 million units of with an annual estimated need of around 800,000 units.

    Benitez said the sector has only produced around 778,000 units from 2016 to 2020.

    This means over the past four years, an annual average of around 194,000 units were produced out of the 800,000 units needed to catch up with population growth and existing backlog.

    While stressing that government housing programs should be complemented by the production of the private sector, Benitez said increasing costs and risks to investments continue frustrate developers.

    “To proceed to construction, a housing project will need 146 signatures, 70 permits from 27 offices, requiring 373 documents,” Benitez said.

    He added the timeline for a housing project goes up to maybe four or five years before it actually really gets to get off the ground.

    “ We need to promote a more dynamic housing market. And our vision is to strengthen public private partnership. Ideally, accelerate housing production to make it at least come close to catching up to what the population needs,” he said.

    Benitez cited statistics from the National Economic and Development Authority which showed 81 percent of Filipinos want to have their own house.

    Benitez reported that on second reading for approval on the plenary floor of the House of Representatives is the long awaited on site in city and near cities resettlement bill, as well as the rental subsidy bill, both of which were primarily authored by Rep. Kit Belmonte of Quezon City.

    Benitez also filed last week House Resolution seeking among others things to fasttrack of construction of housing in idle government lands and for the provision of cross subsidy to low-income families. (I. Isip)