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CREBA prez reports on housing reform interventions

The period 2020 to 2023 was busy for the CREBA directorate, marked by relentless pursuit of legislative and institutional reforms crucial not only to the cause of the housing industry, but also the entire economy.

Reporting during the Chamber’s general membership meeting and election of directors for the 2024-2026 term, CREBA president Noel “Toti” M. Cariño said that the VAT exemption threshold, balanced housing mode of compliance, National Land Use (NLUA) bills, Centralized Home Financing Program (CHFP), land registration reforms and the Maceda Law were among the priority concerns addressed by the outgoing board.

Increase in VAT exemption threshold

Cariño reported that the Chamber succeeded in getting Congress to include in the CREATE (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises) Law its proposal to raise the VAT exemption threshold for residential properties to P4.2 million.

While then President Duterte vetoed this, Cariño said that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) issued Revenue Regulation No. 1-2024 in January this year, which raised the threshold to P3.6 million.

Balanced housing mode of compliance

The Housing Escrow Fund was established by the HLURB in 2017, as a fund pool comprised of contributions by developers as an alternative mode of compliance with the mandated balanced housing requirement under RA 7279.

Cariño bared that in May 2021, as part of the Chamber’s good governance initiatives, and acting on complaints by its developer-members relative to the implementation of the escrow mechanism, the CREBA leadership made representations with the DHSUD to clarify issues regarding its legality and propriety.

A few months later, Cariño said, Senator Risa Hontiveros called on the Commission on Audit to keep close watch on the funds.

“Later, we learned that the escrow operations have been suspended in view of a pending proceeding before the Department of Justice”, Cariño added.

Cariño said that apparently to replace the escrow fund mechanism, a bill was filed in Congress seeking to institute direct donation by developers to LGUs as an alternative mode of compliance with the balanced housing requirement.

Considering the lack of adequate safeguards, conditions and parameters in the implementation of this proposed law, Cariño said that CREBA drafted and presented its recommended reformulation of the bill before the Technical Working Group of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development (CHUD).

NLUA – lands for shelter development

Cariño also reported that while CREBA has been successful in blocking the enactment of the National Land Use Act (NLUA) since it was first proposed in Congress in 1999, due to many of its provisions that are blatantly biased against the real estate sector, CREBA has recently revised its stand on this proposed law.

“We have reformulated our position on the NLUA bills to make it more relevant and responsive to the times,” Cariño said.

“As part of our campaign to open our lawmakers’ eyes to the real situation with respect to land uses,” Cariño stressed, “we have updated our supporting statistics that clearly show how minimal the actual built-up land area is, compared to the total area devoted to agriculture as well as forest lands.”

Philippine land use, land cover statistics
Land area count from geo-statistical analysis of NAMRIA Land Cover Maps produced using hi-resolution satellite imagery and remote sensing

ICT infrastructure in housing projects

CREBA has also submitted to the House CHUD a reformulation of the untenable provisions of pending bills that require developers to allocate an area in housing development projects for the construction of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, without remuneration to developers or homeowners.

“This requirement imposes unreasonableness burdens on our industry, and poses adverse impact on our homebuyers,” Carinõ said.

Maceda Law amendments

Cariño also reported that in response to the call of developer-members for CREBA to move towards amendment of the 50-year old Republic Act 6552, otherwise known as the “Realty Installment Buyer Act” or “Maceda Law”, the Chamber has drafted a proposed amendatory bill.

 “While that law aims to protect real property buyers from inequitable conditions of installment sales, however, it imposes unjust burdens on developers and has been abused by many property buyers on installment,” Cariño said.

Land registration reforms

Amid incessant public clamor for more efficient and faster delivery of services relative to land registration and titling, bills have been filed in the Lower House seeking to reorganize the Land Registration Authority and amend the Property Registration Law with respect to the reconstitution of titles, administrative correction and disposition of adverse claims.

“From our analysis, these bills will actually worsen the prevailing situation by dismantling the safeguards in existing laws against land or title fraud. Thus, we have formulated a draft alternative bill that fully addresses these issues,” Cariño said.

“We anticipate the incoming CREBA Board to present this draft bill soon to the membership for consensus,” Cariño added.

Centralized Homebuyer Financing Program (CHFP)

Initially proposed by the Chamber in 1998, the CHFP has been designed to continually generate and recycle funds exclusively for home lending, without too much dependence on budgetary support from the government.

“Considering that it has been more than 25 years since the CHFP was first conceptualized, we have undertaken a review and revision of its features to make them conform to the realities of the times,” Cariño said.

The next 50 years

Enjoining the CREBA members to continue to band together in charting the course of the Philippine real estate industry for the next 50 years, Cariño said, “We hope that our entire membership will continue to display their usual zeal in working with us to protect and promote the cause of our industry and those we serve.”

“If CREBA has made a difference in the last 50 years, we expect CREBA to make a far bigger difference now and in the years to come,” Cariño said.


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