Real estate group calls for passage of housing-related bills

by Roderick L. Abad, BusinessMirror

Posted at Jul 23 2014 11:29 AM | Updated as of Jul 23 2014 07:29 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The housing sector is in need of 5.5 million dwelling units yet funding and legislative measures are lacking to address this backlog, according to the Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations Inc. (Creba).

This holds true by the fact that the national government has been spending only 1 percent of its total budget for housing—the lowest in Asia as per the Asian Development Bank.

Resolving such a long-overdue issue has been one of the core thrusts of Creba ever since its inception in 1973, according to Creba National Chairman Charlie A. V. Gorayeb.

He said that they have taken an active role in improving the property and housing situation in the country by way of pushing legislations and policies to give every Filipino a decent roof above his head.

These include the Department of Housing Bill, the National Land Use Bill, the Local Housing Board Bill, and the Balanced Housing Program Amendment.

While these legislative measures have been pending in the 16th Congress, Gorayeb said Creba has been closely monitoring their progress in pursuit of a more vibrant and robust housing sector for all.

The very urgent housing-related law that the chamber has been pushing for enactment over the last two decades is the passage of the pending omnibus bill creating a Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD).

The group proposes it to be created as the country’s supreme policy-making body, which is mandated to solve overall housing issues via finance, production, regulation and administration.

To ensure maximum housing provision, these funding systems must be put in place: Centralized Homebuyer Financing Program, Securitization Program, and Housing and Urban Development Fund.

Another important measure that Creba has been advocating for is the National Land Use Act (NLUA), which has been waiting for the approval of both the Senate and Congress. President Aquino himself recognizes it as very urgent.

Although the bill is supposedly crafted to “harmonize the reasonable claims of all those who hold interest in the land” and offer a “rational and just allocation of the country’s land resources,” however, the chamber said it will be favoring more the agricultural industry than other productive sectors, so it must determine “where” and “what” exactly is the extent of the “protected lands” banned from conversion.

Since its passage during the 15th Congress, Creba has been against the the Local Housing Board Bill mainly due to bureaucracy that it may create, thereby increasing development cost that developers may opt to pass on to homebuyers.

Strong opposition on this legislative measure, however, paved the way for the lawmakers in the 16th Congress to make it workable by authorizing the board to take over the housing mandates of local government units (LGUs).

Among the different versions of which, Creba committed its support last February to the Local Housing Board Act authored and proposed by Housing Committee Chairman Sen. JV Ejercito, which gives the power to local housing boards to issue preliminary and/or final development permits following proper evaluation of subdivision schemes and development plans of all housing projects in a certain locality.

As regards to the Balanced Housing Program Amendment, the real-estate and builders’ group recommends the inclusion of condominiums and reduction of compliance quotas.

It said that vertical residences are possible only if compliance projects will be lessened to a cap of 5 percent of the net saleable residential area instead of 20 percent. Subdivisions are workable if the quota is mitigated to 15 percent, it added.

Creba believes that any alternative method of obedience to the socialized housing provision should be toward actual addition to the housing stock to bridge the supply and demand gap.

It also suggests a new socialized housing package for medium-rise buildings or condominiums in urban areas with at least 20-sq-m floor area each unit so they will be entitled also to tax incentives as stated in Section 20 of UDHA.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue, according to Creba, should accept the Socialized Housing Certification issued by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board as the only requirement for the issuance of the CAR and TCL to the Registry of Deeds.

These pieces of legislation, Gorayeb said, are important and very urgent measures that call for immediate enactment into law. He encouraged cooperation among the industry players and stakeholders to help in Creba’s initiative, especially during the 23rd Annual Creba National Convention, themed “Ensuring Decades of Growth,” in Iloilo City from October 15 to 18, where they can revitalize their commitment to uplift land and housing as the main catalyst for economic and social development.

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