House leader urging government to allocate more funds in housing

Updated August 22, 2017, 3:09 PM
By Charissa Luci-Atienza

A House leader is urging the Duterte administration to pour in more resources in housing to address the long-standing problem of homelessness in the country.

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, chairman of the House committee on housing and urban development, laments that the proposed P4.795-billion budget for the housing sector in 2018 is 68.87 percent lower than last year.

The figure represents a measly 0.13 percent of the 2018 national budget, he noted.

“We have long been grappling with homelessness and each year the country’s housing needs, especially in urban areas, keep on swelling along with population growth and rapid urbanization,” Benitez said.

Of the total housing budget for 2018, P2.235 billion goes to the National Housing Authority (NHA) and P773.63 million for the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC).

Citing the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Benitez expressed concern that the country’s total housing needs would balloon to 6.8 million by 2022, including the 2-million housing backlog from previous years.

“To address this, the government should allocate more funding for housing programs for poor and low-income families, particularly those living in informal settlements and danger areas,” he said.

Benitez laments that the NHA’s 2018 budget is 82.38 percent lower than last year. It will be earmarked for the resettlement of informal settler families and housing for military and police personnel.

He even expressed disappointment over the zero budget for permanent housing for disaster victims, which is the subject of his committee’s inquiry in Tacloban City on September 1.

“It is deeply disconcerting that housing is left neglected by the government when shelter is the one of the most basic human needs and the most visible manifestation of human dignity,” Benitez said.

“The government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ (BBB) program should not just concentrate on transportation infrastructure. Building affordable and adequate homes for poor Filipino families should be part and parcel of our efforts to ensure inclusive and sustainable development,” he added.

The budget for housing sector is dwarfed by the 1.097-trillion BBB budget by more than 200 times, Benitez noted.