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VILLAFUERTE WANTS RENT SUBSIDIES FOR ELIGIBLE INFORMAL SETTLERS, RELOCATION TO SAFE HOUSING PROJECTS

Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte wants state subsidies for the rentals of eligible informal settlers to encourage them to transfer from danger areas and public and privately-owned lands to permanent homes available in the formal housing market. 

Villafuerte said his proposed rent subsidies will likewise address the temporary relocation of families displaced by either natural or man-made disasters.

Villafuerte said his measure aims to establish a “housing and social protection program.”

Under House Bill (HB) No. 7008, Villafuerte proposed that eligible informal settler beneficiaries (ISBs) receive rental subsidies, the amount of which shall be determined by taking into consideration, among others, the prevailing rental rates in the concerned locality where they will relocate to and their economic standing and potential. 

The subsidy shall be a percentage of the total amount of rentals as determined by the rental or lease contract between the eligible beneficiary and the lessor. 

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Villafuerte said there are about 4.5 million homeless people in the country, three million of them in Metro Manila. 

“This number is possibly the most in any city in the world as estimated by some organizations,” he said.

“The Philippines being in the Asia Pacific Region exposes our citizens to various disasters.”

“Poverty is not the sole reason for homelessness. The unique condition of the Philippines being in the Asia Pacific Region exposes our citizens to various disasters that are not apparent in other countries where housing is likewise a problem.” 

Villafuerte pointed out that there are roughly 20 typhoons yearly that pass by the Philippines, which also experiences frequent seismic activity. For instance, Super Typhoon Yolanda, which struck in 2013, left more than 4.4 million people homeless.

For eligible ISBs below the poverty threshold as determined by the PSA, HB 7008 provides that the subsidy be at least 50 percent of the total amount of rentals.

Villafuerte said his measure aims to establish a “housing and social protection program” with the end goal of “enabling informal settler-beneficiaries to lead decent lives and supporting them in accessing the formal housing market.” 

Under Villafuerte’s bill, the Rental Housing Subsidy program will be implemented by the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), which will also be responsible for coordinating with housing agencies in formulating program targets and then integrating such goals into the national housing policy. 

The DHSUD is also tasked under HB 7008 to set up a monitoring and evaluation system, tools, exit strategy and methodologies on compliance with conditions, implementation, output and impact assessments together with its attached agencies, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor (PCUP) and the local government units (LGUs). 

Under HB 7008, eligible for the rental subsidy are ISBs who have a source of livelihood or have at least one member of the household gainfully employed, and who must vacate the informal settlement area in which they are presently living and transfer or relocate to a safer area. 

These eligible ISBS should be living in: 

·   a lot or dwelling unit without the consent of the legal owner of such lot or dwelling unit;

·   a danger area as determined by the DHSUD;

·   an area reserved or used for government infrastructure projects;

·   an area classified as a protected or forest area, except those inhabited by indigenous peoples;

·   an area declared as a priority development area under Proclamation No. 1967, series of 1980, as applicable; or

·   on public lands, structures or facilities not intended for human habitation.

“Notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary, at any time but not more than once every two (2) years, subsidies given under the program shall be reviewed or revised to conform to prevailing economic conditions,” said Villafuerte in his bill. 

The bill also states that “Rental subsidy shall be granted to eligible beneficiaries for a maximum of five (5) years or upon their availment or acquisition of permanent housing, whichever comes first.”

HB 7008 also sets several conditions for ISBs to enjoy the subsidy. 

These include: 1) not moving or relocating back to the area where they originally lived in, unless such move or relocation has been permitted by the proper government authorities, taking into consideration the purpose of the program; and paying the portion of the rentals not subsidized under the program to the lessor.

Villafuerte said that under his bill, beneficiaries who maintain good payment standings shall be prioritized as beneficiaries in government housing programs.

The bill also involves the National Housing Authority (NHA), Departments of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and of Transportation (DOTr), Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to ensure the effective implementation of the program. 

It also requires the DHSUD to create more positions and enlist additional personnel to ensure the proper and appropriate implementation of the program.

Villafuerte said the DHSUD is required under HB 7008 to submit to the Congress a report on the implementation of the Rental Subsidy Program at the end of the second year from the date of its effectivity and every two years thereafter.

The Camarines Sur solon said the administration’s medium-term plan—the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022—highlights the importance of healthy housing conditions and well-planned urban development in achieving inclusive growth and a globally competitive economy. 

The PDP 2017-2022 approved by the board of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) identified housing as one of the nine priority sectors “with the greatest potential” to help the government realize its goals under the Ambisyon 2040, Villafuerte said. 

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