Food, clothing and shelter are man’s most basic needs. Apparently with this truism in mind, and cognizant of the economic pump-priming attributes of shelter development, the government under the martial law regime placed housing – side by side with agrarian reform – at the focus of its developmental thrust.
Thus, the Ministry of Human settlements was created, with no less than the powerful First Lady then at its helm.
When the Ministry was dismantled with the fall of the regime, priority for the provision of a most basic need was considerably downgraded. A mere coordinative body – the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council – replaced the once powerful administrative machinery governing shelter development, while other socio-economic activities enjoyed Cabinet attention through their respective Departments, albeit bowing in submission to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) which assumed inordinate predominance.
Frustrated by the HUDCC’s subservience to the DAR and apparent ineffectuality in pursuing the National Shelter Program, in 1994 CREBA began its campaign for a law creating a Department of Housing and instituting reforms in the shelter sector. The aim was to help ensure that the critical housing problem was accorded the attention it deserved at the highest level.
In 1997, with the support of then Speaker of the House Jose de Venecia Jr., CREBA’s efforts led to the approval of the bill by the Lower House. However, action by the Senate on the counterpart bill was halted by the election that followed.
In 2000, then Senator Rodolfo Biazon, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing, filed a bill for the creation of a Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD). However, the bill confined itself to the reorganization of the existing administrative infrastructure to be placed under the DHUD; it failed to address two major concerns that, for years, have effectively stymied shelter delivery: (1) shelter finance, and (2) land access/land use.
Worse in the eyes of CREBA, it carried provisions that would legitimize existing executive/administrative fiats that banned the conversion of CARP-able lands – which included practically all lands – and place all housing and urban development programs subject to the guidelines on land use under those fiats.
Recommending that its proposed reform measures be included in the bill, CREBA said:
“The opportunity now exists to institute, in this proposed law itself, substantive measures that will lend permanence, stability, self-sustainability, continuity and effectiveness in the government shelter program. These measures are indispensable if this Act is to effectively pursue the Constitutional mandates on housing and social justice on a long-term basis. With due respect, it is our view that failure to seize such opportunity would render this legislation nothing more than just a palliative as far as the plight of the underprivileged homeless is concerned.”
Supporting CREBA’s stance, then Congressman Eduardo Zialcita filed a counterpart omnibus housing bill. The Zialcita bill incorporated the totality of CREBA’s proposed comprehensive package of reforms to address the critical housing problem through measures relative to the four major aspects of land and housing development:
- Administrative infrastructure reform via the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development;
- Shelter finance reforms via the Centralized Homebuyer Financing Program;
- Equitable land access; and
- Regulatory reforms via conferment of additional powers for the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) and institutionalization, by law, of the Social Housing One-Stop Processing Center (SHOPC).
The same package of reforms was subsequently included in the consolidated house bills submitted by the House Committee on Government Reorganization in 2001.
For one reason or another, neither the House bill nor the Senate bill prospered.
After almost twenty years, on 10 October 2018, the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) was finally created under RA 11201.
In a major departure from the setup contemplated in the Omnibus Bill of 2002, RA 11201 produced another bloated bureaucracy, without the reform measures contained in that Bill.
Today, the issues stymying land availability and housing affordability remain. Without sufficient land acreage on which to build, and without an effective homebuyer financing system, it remains to be seen how far the DHSUD will succeed in pursuing the goals for which CREBA pushed for its creation.