CREBA members recently wrote to Congressman Ruffy Biazon and House Committee chair Albee Benitez regarding House Bill 1722, or the proposed act creating a local housing board in all cities and first to third class municipalities in the country.
The Chamber is inclined to support the bill for seeking to transfer the power of the local sanggunians in approving subdivision plans and development permits of all subdivision to the said local housing board (LHB) thereby rationalizing the powers and functions vested upon it by RA 7160 or the Local Government Code.
The Board, being a non-political body, is in a better position to handle the technical aspect of approving applications for development permits and subdivision plans. The efficiency of screening applications could be improved if the responsibility would be placed upon a body dealing specifically with housing concerns.
It will be even better if the board will serve as a one-stop shop housing processing center at the local government level in issuing permits and licenses, including those required by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agrarian Reform m (DAR) and Department of Agriculture (DA) inasmuch as there are already qualified environment and natural resource officers, agrarian reform officers and agriculturists locally. This would expedite the process of housing permitting and licensing and help intensify the delivery of housing all over the country.
As crafted, however, the Housing Board is envisioned to be com posed of too many members, making it a hard task to constitute a quorum and decide on applications lodged before it. To be effective and efficient, the board members shall have to meet at least twice a month and limited to the Mayor as chair, with such members as the local housing committee head, the city/municipal planning and development officer, the city/municipal engineer and 3 private sector representatives.
Last June, no less than the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) identified about 100 documents, 20 offices, 688 permits and 200 signatures required from national agencies down to the LGUs, including the barangay, to commence a housing project. This translates to unnecessary costs plus delays due to bureaucratic red tape. Developers are left with no other choice but to pass on the extra cost to home buyers, which directly impacts affordability.
For since the function off approving development permits for subdivision projects was devolved to the LGUs, development cost has, for some reason, increased, and the development period became substantially longer.
This is not to mention the situation where some, if not most, of our LGUs lack the depth of technical capacity for effective shelter and urban development and management that is present in national agencies such as the e Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).
In all fairness, local officials are required to perform other equally important functions for their constituencies, posing an administrative challenge in devoting the needed time and focus in fulfilling their respective duties and functions in delivering basic services to the people as mandated by law.
But, the housing industry is no doubt a vital sector in our country’s future. It is a key sector of our Eco economy that addresses not only the problem of homelessness but provides millions of jobs to the unemployed and billions of revenues to government.
To allow the private sector to fulfill its Constitutional mandate to assist in government efforts towards urban land reform and housing to serve the underprivileged and homeless, government must harmonize its housing policies and do away with conflicting, unreasonable and overlapping requirements imposed up upon an already heavily taxed and highly regulated industry.
Published in the Manila Bulletin May 2018