Measly budget for the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development: Only P3.9B for 2023 | Inquirer Opinion
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Measly budget for the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development: Only P3.9B for 2023

/ 05:03 AM November 04, 2022

It is sad to note that the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and its attached agencies and corporations may have only a measly budget of P3.9 billion for 2023. This was the amount arrived at during the hearing conducted by the Senate finance subcommittee. According to Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who presided over the hearing, the budget is deemed submitted for Senate plenary debates. The amount is a far cry from the department’s proposed P95.98-billion 2023 budget and is just about half of its current budget.

The emasculated amount belies an ignorance of the role of DHSUD and particularly its housing provision function in the socioeconomic development of the country. The senators need to be reminded that shelter is one of man’s traditional immediate basic needs of food and water, shelter, and clothing, and that the housing industry has very high economic multipliers, i.e., that income earned in many sectors of the economy as an outcome of the numerous requisites of home construction is subsequently recirculated into the economy. For example, a US Bureau of Economic Analysis study in 2019 has shown that the housing construction multiplier is one of the highest among major industrial sectors, i.e., ranking fifth in magnitude among 64 industrial categories.

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A recent Inquirer article mentions President Marcos Jr. asking DHSUD’s Secretary Jose Acuzar if the latter can really build one million houses per year over the next six years. Acuzar assured the President that it could be done, but he did not mention the pittance allotted to DHSUD for next year. And what is puzzling is that the President and his supporters in Congress have not shown an iota of concern for DHSUD’s diminished operational funding. The DHSUD points out that there is a current housing backlog of 6.5 million units and which will balloon to 22 million units by 2040 if no significant steps are taken by the government.

So how can the above objective be achieved if only the following measly specific allocations are provided: P2 billion for the National Housing Authority, P500 million for the Social Housing Finance Corp., and P0 for the National Home Mortgage Finance Corp. (NHMFC)? Nothing at all for the NHMFC which manages the much-touted Pag-Ibig Fund that provides affordable housing loans and other services for low-income classes? There is a need to provide a large provident Pag-Ibig Fund that will make cheap and/or subsidized mortgage rates available to low- and mid-income families.

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Housing development associations also point out that, although there is a gigantic need in the low- and mid-income segment of the market, not many developers venture into these as they are not seen as potentially profitable. They suggest that the government should come in by offering incentives to real estate developers like income tax holidays that will redound to savings for developers and which can be passed on to buyers in the form of lower prices.

The silence of Mr. Marcos with regard to the emasculation of the DHSUD budget is deafening. What has happened to Mr. Marcos’ election campaign promise to revive the Bagong Lipunan Improvement of Sites and Services Program of his father and which was managed by his mother? The successful program was able to construct 230,000 low-cost housing units throughout the country, as claimed by the Marcos camp. The program has given us a glimpse of the desirable effects of an affordable housing scheme for the urban poor such as transferring them from slums, river easements, railway tracks, and other high-risk areas and, in the process, enhancing their self-esteem and making them live decent lives.

As for DHSUD’s other mandate of promoting desirable urban development, it should simplify its stringent approval procedures for comprehensive land use plans of local government units so that the housing projects of its beneficiaries can be properly located in the plans beforehand.

Meliton B. Juanico,

licensed environmental planner;

retired professor of geography,

University of the Philippines Diliman

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