BAGUIO CITY – Some P220 billion is needed by the government and the private sector to solve the country’s over 5.5 million housing backlog within a reasonable period of time, a senior housing official said here.
Noel ‘Toti’ Cariño, National President of the Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Association (CREBA), said what the government needs is a centralized housing finance fund to be administered by a centralized housing finance corporation in order to make sure that the funds are solely devoted to housing and not just a mere portion of the fund being used for housing projects.
“We are tapping the unused agriculture and agrarian reform funds of the Central Bank (CB), Pag-IBIG, Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS) based on their respective charters in order to create a fund exclusive for housing,” Cariño stressed.
He explained what is happening now is that the housing fund lodged with Pag-IBIG is not solely devoted for housing but there is a major portion devoted as provident fund that needs to earn income in order to pay back the interest of the money of the members.
According to him, one of the major advantages of having a centralized housing fund is that the authorized government entity can provide a fixed and much lower interest for housing for a fixed period of 25 years considering that the fund is devoted for such purpose and it no longer needs to earn additional income as provident fund.
Cariño disclosed the country’s housing backlog ten years ago was only 2 million units but because of the rapid population growth and the migration of people from the rural areas to the urban centers, it grew exponentially until it reached the unmanageable figure of 5.5 million.
Moreover, he explained aside from the unused agriculture and agrarian reform funds, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) officials are also exploring other untapped funds that could be used to help bankroll the government’s housing projects in order to address the country’s housing backlog in the future.
The CREBA national official pointed out once the funds are available, some 200,000 housing units could be completed in one year and the backlog could be solved in a 25-year period.
Cariño emphasized for every housing unit that is being built, it provides direct employment to around 8 individuals and cascades to 16 other down line services ranging from the supply of cement, transport of construction materials, and food among other basic services required for the purpose.
He added CREBA officials are now in direct contact with officials of both chambers of Congress for the upcoming conduct of a national housing summit which is expected to be held by the middle part of this year in order to craft an overall housing plan for the country and tap available funds that could be used to boost the growth of the industry.
Cariño said the CREBA is also making representations with responsible World Bank (WB) officials on where to access funds which will be used not only for the conduct of the housing summit but also to help in bankrolling short, medium and long-term housing projects in the country in order to significantly reduce the declared housing backlog.
Engr. Mario R. Alzona, Jr., newly-installed CREBA-Baguio-Benguet Chapter president, said national leaders must break down the 5.5 million housing backlog in the national scene so that those in the regional and provincial and city chapters will be able to contribute in addressing the housing backlog in their respective areas of jurisdiction through their direct coordination with concerned government agencies and host local governments.
Alzona disclosed that in Baguio and Benguet, there are around 35,000 units of housing backlog that need to be significantly reduced through the realization of the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay (BLISTT) growth area considering that Baguio is already congested in terms of decent housing.
He revealed local housing developers are resilient in finding available lots within the neighboring towns of La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay in order to help in developing the said Benguet municipalities as growth areas to create increased economic activities, employment opportunities and sources of livelihood for the rapidly growing population.