Worker hous­ing pro­gram and gov­ern­ment’s role

The Philippine Star - - BUSINESS - GER­ARDO P. SICAT

In the course of decades of our eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, two con­trast­ing vis­ual im­ages of the na­tion com­pete with each other.

The first vi­sion is hope­ful. It gives a glit­ter­ing view of new, ris­ing build­ings and fa­cil­i­ties, grow­ing in­sti­tu­tions and ex­pand­ing fac­to­ries, and es­tab­lish­ments for com­merce.

The other vi­sion is de­press­ing. It is a view of the hope­less­ness of poor com­mu­ni­ties that have grown around the ar­eas of eco­nomic progress.

To lift the con­di­tions of the places where the coun­try’s in­come-earn­ers live is a re­spon­si­bil­ity of the gov­ern­ment. It is the gov­ern­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to raise the level of eco­nomic growth, to im­prove jobs, and to make work­ers more pro­duc­tive through an im­prove­ment in their work­ing and liv­ing con­di­tions.

A cap­sule his­tory of hous­ing for the low in­come sec­tor is use­ful here.

Early suc­cess. The most suc­cess­ful time when the na­tion had a promis­ing and hope­ful mass hous­ing pro­gram was when the PHHC (Philip­pine Home­site and Hous­ing Cor­po­ra­tion, the fore­run­ner of the NHA) un­der­took hous­ing pro­duc­tion and sale to the coun­try’s work­ers. This hap­pened dur­ing the pe­riod 1950s to­ward the 1960s.

Ini­tial projects on hous­ing pro­vi­sion led to nu­mer­ous con­struc­tion of houses and their sale to the coun­try’s main work­ers. The first projects were truly de­signed to meet the needs of work­ers, mainly civil ser­vants work­ing with the gov­ern­ment and those qual­i­fied.

The early hous­ing projects were in Que­zon City. In those days, the gov­ern­ment, through the PHHC, was flush with land­hold­ings in­tended for mass hous­ing projects. PHHC built large com­mu­ni­ties with mass de­signs of small houses with lots in the city where the cap­i­tal of the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion was lo­cated.

Then PHHC sold most of its land­hold­ings to in­di­vid­u­als to en­cour­age pri­vate hous­ing con­struc­tion. The trans­fers of the land were made mainly to gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees, the bulk of which were in low in­come and mid­dle in­come brack­ets.

The gen­eral hous­ing pol­icy shifted to­ward strength­en­ing home-build­ing through the pri­vate sec­tor, with fi­nanc­ing be­ing sup­ported by gov­ern­ment fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.

En­ergy cri­sis years. The en­ergy cri­sis and the on­slaught of in­fla­tion brought by that large event in the 1970s caused the gov­ern­ment to put price con­trols in place, in­clud­ing those on rentals af­fect­ing the poor.

Though such mea­sures were meant to be tem­po­rary, those on house rentals be­came much more dif­fi­cult to re­move po­lit­i­cally. Some rent con­trol is still in place to­day, al­though less strin­gent and more flex­i­ble now.

That pe­riod of cri­sis im­pacted highly on hous­ing sup­ply. Rent con­trol for hous­ing for the poor dis­cour­aged new hous­ing con­struc­tion for rental hous­ing, es­pe­cially in the pri­vate sec­tor.

Dur­ing the early 1980s the gov­ern­ment con­ceived a mas­sive hous­ing con­struc­tion pro­gram called BLISS. How­ever, the project fell prey to po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic con­vul­sions of the pe­riod, cli­maxed by Peo­ple Power in 1986.

Deep­en­ing sup­ply gap. The po­lit­i­cal change of that pe­riod also en­cour­aged the over­whelm­ing oc­cu­pa­tion by ur­ban dwellers of gov­ern­ment land prop­er­ties. This is why Que­zon City, the coun­try’s in­tended seat of the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion, be­came a haven for many squat­ted com­mu­ni­ties.

Fur­ther to this fact, politi­cians yielded to en­cour­age­ment of squat­ting by re­quir­ing that the evic­tion of squat­ters be ac­com­pa­nied by fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion (the Lina law).

The re­sult of all these was that new hous­ing for rentals al­most dis­ap­peared, but new forms of sup­ply be­came avail­able. A most com­mon of ar­range­ment is “bed-spac­ing”. Rented apart­ments were sub­di­vided and rented as bed-space. Within squat­ted com­mu­ni­ties, the sale of squat­ting rights had be­come a com­mon trans­ac­tion of sale, fur­ther en­cour­ag­ing squat­ting. Ag­gra­vated grow­ing hous­ing needs and new waves of ur­ban mi­gra­tion to the cities con­tin­ued un­abated to worsen the tight­ness of hous­ing sup­ply.

The hous­ing sup­ply for work­ers be­came tighter for those who lived in the cen­ter of the me­trop­o­lis, al­though some hous­ing could be se­cured in the pe­riph­eral ar­eas where land was cheap and the gov­ern­ment, or pri­vate de­vel­op­ers, could amass land ar­eas for in­ex­pen­sive hous­ing. With the pres­ence of trans­port routes to­ward Manila or where the fac­to­ries were lo­cated, hous­ing sup­ply was re­spond­ing.

This phe­nom­e­non has led, of course, to the ex­pan­sion of the pop­u­la­tions of out­ly­ing towns on the edge of the cen­ter of jobs. Hence, the poor work­ers who could af­ford to amor­tize hous­ing could se­cure houses, if lo­cated in out­ly­ing ar­eas.

As a re­sult, hous­ing in, for ex­am­ple, Das­mar­iñas, Cavite or in towns in Rizal and Bu­la­can, along the high­ways and trans­port routes, were pro­vid­ing dwellings for work­ers who have jobs in fac­to­ries, of­fices, and es­tab­lish­ments in Metro-Manila.

It is also im­por­tant to note that dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ment ad­min­is­tra­tions have been mind­ful to pro­vide some in­sti­tu­tional sup­port to­ward im­prov­ing hous­ing pol­icy. The var­i­ous in­sti­tu­tions needed to cre­ate a vi­able mar­ket for pri­vate hous­ing have been pur­sued. Gov­ern­ment pro­grams to sup­port hous­ing projects by pri­vate de­vel­op­ers have not been want­ing.

How­ever, to cre­ate a large im­pact on the sup­ply of hous­ing for those with steady jobs re­quires that the gov­ern­ment also par­tic­i­pate in the con­struc­tion of hous­ing sup­ply for the coun­try’s in­come earn­ers. Let­ting only the pri­vate sec­tor do this pro­vi­sion of hous­ing has tilted hous­ing sup­ply in fa­vor of the rich and well-do-do.

Gov­ern­ment role in low-in­come hous­ing sup­ply. In or­der to in­crease the ca­pac­ity to meet the need for hous­ing of the poor­est work­ers, an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of the pro­gram is for the gov­ern­ment to in­flu­ence the con­sol­i­da­tion of land-bank­ing for hous­ing set­tle­ments.

Leav­ing that en­tirely to the pri­vate sec­tor has tilted hous­ing sup­ply away from poor in­come earn­ers. The im­bal­ance in the na­tion’s hous­ing sup­ply for the mo­ment is greatly to the dis­ad­van­tage of the work­ing com­mon man, who suf­fers from want for de­cent and safe hous­ing.

Work­ers in search of hous­ing are ei­ther forced to live in out­ly­ing, far away towns and cities that cost them a lot of time to reach their work-places. Those who live within the bounds of the big me­trop­o­lis are forced to live in de­graded neigh­bor­hoods, in squat­ted com­mu­ni­ties, or in bed-spac­ing ar­range­ments.

To suc­ceed at a scale that helps to meet the hous­ing needs of the bulk of the coun­try’s in­come-earn­ing and work­ing pop­u­la­tion, it is im­per­a­tive the gov­ern­ment finds a way to con­sol­i­date land-bank­ing within ma­jor cities for mass hous­ing com­mu­ni­ties that it can help to pro­vide and sup­port. Pri­vate de­vel­op­ers can still con­tinue their cur­rent home build­ing pro­grams, only they will now have com­pe­ti­tion in land con­sol­i­da­tions with the gov­ern­ment.

My email is: gp­si­cat@gmail.com. Visit this site for more in­for­ma­tion, feed­back and com­men­tary: http://econ.upd. edu.ph/gp­si­cat/

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