Population growth, migration, red tape: Philippines faces housing crisis

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 07 2021 11:17 AM | Updated as of Sep 07 2021 11:29 AM

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MANILA – What is causing the housing crisis in the Philippines?

For Negros Occidental Representative Francis Benitez, the lack of houses for Filipinos is due to decades of neglect by government aggravated by red tape even as the Philippine population continues to rise. 

"Housing production under the Duterte administration has actually been the highest historically, from the 1970s when we started counting government support of production of housing units. And they average around 190,000 to 200,000 units constructed annually," Benitez said in an interview on ANC's Rundown.

"But the annual target for the poorest of the poor to get direct housing assistance is around 312,000 units. So ang 200,000 max nila on average is still kulang to the 312,000 that we need to catch up to the backlog and cope with population growth,” he said.

“The total housing unit requirement is over 800,000, almost 900,000 units a year, so we’re short of a gap of around 750,000 units every year. And the longer obviously we wait to address it, the larger that gap becomes.”

The lawmaker said population growth and rural-to-urban migration are among the key causes of the housing crisis in the Philippines.

“The primary problem really is land access. As more and more people also move to the cities, as land values increase, mas mahal at mas mahal na magpatayo ng pabahay. Which again complicates matters,” he said.

But he stressed that government bureaucracy is also to blame for the housing backlog. 

“For example, the permitting process by which housing can be done lasts a very long time so it takes almost two to four years for any housing projects to actually get off the ground. And these get interrupted by elections, and so on and so forth.”

“The red tape really, really delays the process and maraming hindi natutuloy,” he said.

In 2018, government data showed that about 4.5 million people were homeless or living in informal settlements in the Philippines, of whom 3 million were in Metro Manila.

Officials and experts believe informal settlers have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced businesses to shut down, prompting layoffs and income loss.

In the interview, Benitez said idle or empty government lands must be used to build houses for Filipinos. “If in ten, 15 years from the past up to now the government land is still empty or idle, perhaps it is time for the government to transform these idle lands into housing components for our populace who need it,” he said.

“We also have many people who out of desperation decide to live in danger zones. And as disasters increase in speed and frequency in arriving to the Philippines, dumadami’t dumadami yung mga nangangailangan kasi nasa disaster zone naman sila nakatira, because they have no other options. The government is supposed to give them options.”

“The government is trying, but it moves too slowly for the demand that is happening,” he added.

In a resolution signed last week, lawmakers urged the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and other concerned agencies “to immediately undertake the inventory of idle government lands and fast track the development and disposition of these properties for socialized housing, in partnership with the private sector.”

Benitez said the housing crisis in the Philippines “has been building up for a long time.”

“The government estimates our total housing needs will be 6.5 to 7 million housing units in 2022 and that’s a gap due to population growth and rural-to-urban migration. This includes a backlog of around 2 million housing units from the previous administration pa,” he said.

--ANC, 7 September 2021