Can the government deliver?
We’re referring to the pledge made by Secretary Jose Rizalino Acuzar of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development during the closing ceremony of National Shelter Month that the government will build one million homes annually until 2028.
The announcement was greeted with skepticism by those present, according to news reports, as it was deemed too ambitious.
Acuzar, a property developer, is said to have conceded that the administration’s housing program called Pambansang Pabahay Para sa Pilipino is indeed ambitious, but countered: “You’re right, we’re being ambitious, but when will we start fulfilling our dreams?
It’s a valid question by the Housing Secretary, to be sure, but the skepticism was not entirely misplaced.
For one thing, the government has to deal with a huge foreign debt reaching more than 12 trillion pesos that will take many years to pay, even beyond this administration’s life-span.
And for another, the economy is still in a fragile state and taking only baby steps on the road to recovery after nearly three years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Acuzar said President Marcos himself has already met with top bankers to ask for their support for the government’s housing program.
The Housing Secretary assured the Chief Executive that it can be done and the DHSUD and its agencies, such as the Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-Ibig Fund, will in fact start construction in January.
But socialized housing will not come for free.
Minimum wage earners and informal workers who want to have their own houses would have to shell out between P3,000 and P5,000, which corresponds to the amount they now pay to rent small dwellings.
“As soon as they get their own houses, they need to pay because for every unpaid house, 10 Filipinos would not be able to get their own shelters,” the housing czar said.
But a nagging question is: How about the informal settlers now living a hand-to-mouth existence along esteros and unable to even provide for their daily needs because of extreme poverty? Who will give them decent housing?
The housing backlog may hit 11 million units by 2028 if the government would not be able to fund the socialized housing program.
But the administration appears intent on delivering on its promise.
While attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Phnom Penh recently, President Marcos informed Cambodian business leaders that given the shortfall in the Philippines of about six million housing units, his administration has embarked on a very aggressive program to build one million homes every year.
“It is an ambitious number but we will try very, very hard.”