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From the Chairman

Charlie A.V. Gorayeb

Charlie A.V. Gorayeb

Chairman of the Board, CREBA Chairman, CREBA Advocacy & Legislative Affairs Committee Honorary Consul General, Republic of Djibouti

Local Housing Boards Bill

We hope that the last 2 issues of this column have fuelled the real estate sector’s and the reading public’s interest to await this third edition. After all, we promised you there will be at least four in this series of housing-related bills for which CREBA has submitted its proposals for the attention of our lawmakers.

There are currently several versions of the bill mandating the creation of Local Housing Boards in all cities, including first to third class municipalities, all over the country, filed in the legislature. 

During the 15th Congress, the Chamber of Real Estate & Builders’ Association, Inc. (CREBA) vehemently opposed the passage of such a bill because of one major reason: the bill, as then crafted, merely added another layer of bureaucracy by creating a consultative or ministerial body whose only function is to recommend housing-related decisions for dispensation by the local councils or sanggunians. 

If that is the case, making the local housing board a regular fixture in all local government units nationwide will be dangerous and counter-productive as it will only become yet another stage of bureaucratic red tape in the local government units that will consequently increase development cost. This will then redound to the increase in the price of housing units as developers will be left with no other choice but to pass on the extra cost to home buyers.

In this 16th Congress, however, our honourable lawmakers heeded the contention of the private sector and agreed to make the bill a workable measure by allowing all the housing functions and powers of LGUs to be fully taken over by the board and not merely duplicated to institutionalize deliberate delays and justify government inaction or slow decision-making. 

Last February, CREBA threw its support to Senate Bill No. 658 or the proposed “Local Housing Board Act” authored by housing committee chair Sen. JV Ejercito which bestows upon the local housing boards the power to issue preliminary and/or final development permits after due evaluation of subdivision schemes and development plans of all housing projects in a locality.

The bill likewise provides for ample consultation with stakeholders through the presence of various locally-operating groups including private developers in the board, with the mayor as chairperson, and the vice-mayor as vice-chairperson.

To say the least, real estate developers are often left alone to contend with the tedious and expensive process of securing development permit from the local Sanggunians, not to mention all other permits, licenses and clearances from the from various government agencies from the national down to the barangay level. 

If I may recall, since the function of approving development permits for subdivision projects was devolved to the local government units by virtue of the Local Government Code of 1991, also known as Republic Act No. 7160, our development cost has, for some reason, tremendously increased, and the development period became substantially longer. 

We also regret to admit that some, if not most, LGUs lack the depth of technical capacity and resources for effective shelter and urban development and management that is present in national agencies such as the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB). In all fairness, local officials are required to perform other equally important functions for their constituencies, making it hard to devote the needed time and focus in meeting their respective housing challenges. 

Lastly, aside from R.A. 7160, we have other housing-related legislations that are meant to make available at affordable cost decent housing and basic services to the homeless. Among them are: the Urban Development and Housing (UDHA) or Republic Act No. 7279 of 1992 which addresses balanced housing, eviction, resettlement and relocation; and the Comprehensive and Integrated Shelter Finance Act (CISFA) of 1994 which provides the mechanism for continuous funding support for pro-poor housing.

The housing industry is no doubt a vital sector in our country’s future. It is a key sector of our economy that addresses not only the problem of homelessness but provides millions of jobs to the unemployed and billions of revenues to government. 

However, in order for the private sector to fulfil its Constitutional mandate to assist in government efforts towards implementing a continuing program of 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 upon an already heavily-taxed and highly-regulated industry.

If passed into law, the bill will effectively repeal or amend key provisions of R.A. 7160, particularly the duties and functions of the city/municipal councils.

Now that the bill has been re-aligned towards this direction, we have an acceptable compromise that will work to the benefit of the public and private sectors to the advantage of the home-buying public for which we are both here.

Published in the Manila Bulletin April 2014

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