Interview: Chito Cruz
How can urban growth be sustained while addressing the country’s informal settlements?
CHITO CRUZ: Unlike developed countries with well-planned communities that cater to the housing needs of the population, once you have rapid urbanisation in developing economies, informal settler communities form because people go to these urban areas for job opportunities and readily available social services. To address this, the government has started early, with urban planning in cities and townships being built to manage informal settlers. However, since the country already has many informal settlers, we need to accelerate solutions by involving the private sector.
In the latest 2011 census of informal settlers, the number stands at 1.5m, with a third of these located in Metro Manila. Of the 584,000 informal settlers families (ISFs) in Metro Manila, 280,000 are on privately owned land while the remaining 304,000 are either on public property or in areas earmarked for government infrastructure projects. In 2011, all stakeholders came together to implement a five-year P50bn ($1.1bn) programme for ISFs living in danger areas, relocating 104,000 families, 60,000 of which were in the waterways. Local government units (LGUs) are charged with identifying and preparing families to relocate to units, provided by the National Housing Authority (NHA) or financed by the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC). Simultaneously, the Metro Manila Development Authority and the Department of Public Works and Highways are tasked with providing the necessary infrastructure to clear waterways and impede the building of houses in those areas. Under this programme, the NHA is currently constructing 90,000 units of which 67,000 have already been completed as of the end of December 2015. On the other hand, the SHFC has provided financing to 17,261 ISFs for land acquisition. Funds for land development and housing construction have also been provided, resulting in 2534 completed units, with 3355 more under construction. Due to the combined efforts of the different housing agencies, 120,000 units are expected to be completed by the end of 2016. In-city relocation has been prioritised because the farther a dweller moves from urban areas, the higher the displacement from work and community. As a result, the government is aiming to acquire available land that is affordable to put low-rise building resettlements inside the city. Given the scarcity and prohibitive prices of land in Metro Manila, we need to undertake near-city relocation by using four peripheral provinces in Metro Manila as spaces for resettlement.
To what extent can socialised housing be institutionalised at the LGU level?
CRUZ: We believe that LGUs play an important role in addressing housing needs, and this is why we have programmes to build their capacities. The Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) is helping LGUs plan the use of their available land, while HUDCC trains them to craft their Local Shelter Plans, so they can participate in housing programmes as well. In addition, the NHA has a separate programme undertaken with LGUs to try and locate properties that can be used for resettlement of those families that are living in danger areas, and provide them funding for the site development of these properties.
Some 47,600 units have been completed throughout the country under the NHA programme, and they have assisted families in relocating to safe areas outside Metro Manila, with significant demand being generated to expand these initiatives to other urban centres across the Philippines. In order to engage the private sector in addressing the backlog, the HLURB has developed strict compliance guidelines for private developers, requiring the allocation of 20% of a project’s area or cost to socialised housing. This is a measure that has increased housing production.
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