Housing backlog scales 5M units

By Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz, BusinessMirror

Posted at Aug 28 2014 08:17 AM | Updated as of Aug 28 2014 04:17 PM

MANILA -- The chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday said the country’s housing backlog has ballooned to an estimated 5 million units.

Liberal Party Rep. Alfredo Benitez of Negros Occidental, in an interview at the sidelines of a policy forum on housing, said the government should start addressing the backlog now through the passage of a bill creating the Department of Housing.

Several bills seeking to create a Department of Housing, Planning and Urban Development are still pending in both chambers of Congress.

“We have a 5 million backlog all over the country, the majority of the backlog is in Metro Manila.... And [as we see] it is very obvious that there is a backlog...and it is increasing,” he said.

Years back, the backlog was already cut to less than 4 million units. The government has been giving away fiscal incentives to developers under the Investment Priorities Plan just to make sure the number would keep on decreasing every year.

The reverse happened, however, according to Benitez.

“Now the challenge is that, first, to have a national-planning program that would be for a long-term basis and second, once and for all solve the problem or arrest the increasing figure of housing problems...so to arrest the backlog, we need to build 100,000 units for this year alone just to keep it at the same level and increase it the following year,” Benitez said.

The lawmaker said the backlog can be remedied by pegging how many houses can be built in a year, and then pursue that figure as the minimum number of units that should be constructed. Benitez also said it is not right to remove informal settlers from the site and relocate them in far places, as emphasized by William Cobbett, director of Cities Alliance.

“These [informal settlers] people are actually part and parcel of the city development or the cities urbanization...it is a wrong policy to move them out of the city,” he said.

“The first thing that we should do is create a slum-upgrading policy so that we could have a program for the long term and commit to it,” he said.

“One of the reasons why most of our informal setters are living in danger areas is because the government has no clear-cut policy and did not provide land for them,” he said.