Government housing agencies have done a lot to comply with the tenets of the ease of doing business but a lot more has to be done to address the backlog in the area of informal sector mass housing.

“Building a house is a slog through 27 offices, 78 permits, 156 signatures, 373 documents that could last for months,” Senator Sonny Angara said in citing the red tape that is slowing down housing production in the country.

“And for socialized or affordable mass housing, pre-construction processing time could last up to 74 months, if it involves land conversion, titling and financing,” Angara said, citing as source a briefer submitted to him by government housing officials.

The veteran legislator said “documentary hurdles” are discouraging families from building their first home.

“Before you pour your first pail of cement, you have to follow a long paper trail.”

“Before you pour your first pail of cement, you have to follow a long paper trail. And many families do not have the energy for that, “ the seasoned lawmaker said.

The senator said even professional homebuilders and real estate companies have been complaining about “a long checklist of requirements that must be met before, during and after the construction of whether a single-unit or a high-rise.”

He said government housing officials have reported to him that it normally takes the National Housing Authority 12 to 30 months to get a green light for construction.

For the Social Housing Finance Corporation, the pre-construction processing time for its Community Mortgage Program projects is between 16 to 74 months.

Private developers, on the other hand, spend 12 to 51 months to acquire all pre-building permits.

Angara said “the list can be shortened and the timetable sped up without sacrificing safety and without short-circuiting building rules.”

“If we will not cut red tape, the national housing backlog will worsen.”

“If we will not cut red tape, the national housing backlog will worsen and it will turn into a national housing crisis,” he added.

Based on future demand and current pace of production, the backlog in housing units is forecast to hit 6.6 million by 2022, from 5.5 million in 2016.

“But we can ramp up production by improving the regulatory environment,” Angara said. “When there is ease in doing business, financing comes in, and with volume comes affordability.”

He stressed the mandate of several anti-red tape laws should be applied to housing “not just in national government agencies but also in local governments.”

Streamlining and simplifying the issuance of housing-related clearances and permits should be done under one-stop processing centers whose establishment is required by Republic Act 10884 or the Balanced Housing Program Amendments Act.

“It is not even a new idea. 27 years ago, the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 already called for the operationalization of that set up,” Angara said.

The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council has received an “unqualified opinion” from the Commission on Audit for three consecutive years. This means that the financial documents of the agency conform to generally accepted accounting principles and their statements represent their financial accounts fairly.

Pag-Ibig Fund has shortened the processing time for housing loan applications from 27 to six to 17 working days by increasing the number of branches and reducing the number of documentary requirements from 14 to seven documents.

It has also implemented the internet-based or online filing of housing loan applications that has led to a reduction in the queuing time from 20 to five minutes and automated status verification slip that reduced processing time from 15 to two minutes.

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