Manila Bulletin

Real estate scenarios during pandemic

(Part 1)


From the beginning of mankind, the three basic necessitie­s of human beings have always been listed as food, shelter, and clothing. If we relate shelter to the real estate sector, one can assert that even in the midst of the ongoing pandemic and especially after it is put under reasonable control (say, two years from now), real estate is and will continue to be a good investment at all economic levels of society. For the households that have monthly incomes ranging from R20,000 to R70,000 (classified as low-middle income and middle-middle income by economists from the Philippine Institute of Developmen­t Studies), there is effective demand for low-cost and economic housing units that can range from R800,000 to R5 million per unit. These households constitute 36 percent of all households which in 2020 are estimated to number about 22 million. Thus, there are about 8 million households which are actual owners or potential buyers of low-cost and economic housing. Studies done by housing economist Dr. Stan Padojinog estimate that about 5.7 million of these households still do not own their own housing units. This is the existing unfilled demand for socialized (4.8 million households for housing price range from R480,000 to R750,000),

economic (304,000 households for price range of R750,000 to R1.75 million), and low-cost (602,000 households for price range of R1.75 million to R3

million) housing.

Many of these households depend to a great extent on the foreign exchange remittance­s that they receive from their relatives who are OFWs. Even with the 600,000 displaced OFWs who have returned because of the pandemic, there continue to be close to 10 million abroad who are expected to send some US$30 billion of remittance­s (down from US$34 in 2019) in 2020. That is why there continues to be a strong demand for low-cost and economic housing during the pandemic. OFW remittance­s are expected to bounce back quickly (V-shape recovery) after the pandemic is put under control worldwide. Thus there will be sufficient incomes for many households in this category to satisfy their demand for low-cost and economic housing for some time to come. What is more, the Philippine population continues to grow at 1.4 percent annually, adding to housing demand.

A separate market related to housing is the demand for all types of constructi­on materials as those sold in home depots and similar stores for owner-driven constructi­on. In a full blown study done by Dr. Padojinog for Habitat for Humanity entitled “Clearing the Backlog: An Updated Study of the Supply and Demand on ODC Segment,” valuable insights for both government and private business were provided about Owner-Driven Constructi­on (ODC), defined as that housing segment characteri­zed by: (1) security of land tenure; (2) daily income ranging from a maximum annual income of R90,000 to R270,000 (more or less equivalent to the classifica­tion of low-middle income in the PIDS classifica­tion mentioned above); (3) ownership of a residence which may start as a ”temporary” housing unit but in which they are willing to invest and upgrade; and (4) usually rural or peri-urban location.

In the study, the following terms used were defined as follows. “Unserved market” refers to those who cannot afford to purchase units in the open market because of limited access to informatio­n and/or lack of purchasing power to qualify for and access available financing offered by government housing finance institutio­ns such as the Home Developmen­t Mutual Fund (HDMF), the Socialized Housing Finance Corporatio­n (SHFC), and other private financing institutio­ns such as commercial, rural and consumer banks.

The categories of housing units based on current market prices are as follows: 1) socialized housing – price ranges from R480,000 to R750,000;

2) economic housing from R750,000 to R1.75 million; 3) low-cost housing – between R1.75 million and R3.0 million; 4) middle-cost housing – between R3 million and R6

million; 5) upper-class housing – from R6 million and above. The study revealed that a significan­t size of households in the Philippine­s currently cannot participat­e in any housing finance program because their earnings cannot meet the thresholds normally required by public and private finance institutio­ns for housing loans. As of 2018, the unserved segment is estimated to be close to 5.6 million households.

Most of the demand for housing is concentrat­ed in the socialized and economic housing segments. Although many of these households can comply with the housing finance requiremen­ts to purchase housing units on credit, these units are not available in the market. If we combine the unserved segment and the special and economic segments, the total would be 11.3 million households, which account for close to half of the total 22.7 million households estimated in 2015. The backlogs are nationwide, occurring throughout the various regions. The combined total is close to the 2015 census estimates on the types of house ownership which revealed that around 45 percent of all Philippine household do not own or have owner-like possession of properties.

(To be continued)

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