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Anti-poor, anti-Filipino housing law slammed

PHILIPPINE real estate advocates on Tuesday joined hands, by way of a class suit, to address the urgency of amending the antiquated Real Estate Service Act of 2009 (RESA), which has long been a hindrance in solving the alarming 6.75-million-unit housing backlog in the country.

Members of A Better Real Estate Philippines (ABREP), a movement that seeks to promote inclusivity and the use of technology in the industry, on Tuesday filed a petition for declaratory relief against the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) before the Makati Regional Trial Court, saying that certain provisions of the RESA Law are “anti-poor, anti-Pinoy, and anti-technology.”

“What we want to achieve in the movement is to have a more inclusive law. RESA is anti-poor because it forces unnecessary educational requirements that drive the cost of becoming a professional exorbitantly high. It is anti-Pinoy because it fails to promote equal opportunity for Filipinos while unauthorized foreign agents continue to operate unchecked,” ABREP President Anthony Leuterio said in a virtual press conference on Tuesday. “RESA is also anti-technology as it was crafted at a time when the Philippines could not imagine the technological advances we have now.”

This was echoed by Havitas Development Corporation Chairman and Co-Founder Andy Mañalac, saying amendments to the RESA Law are crucial in addressing the country’s alarming housing backlog. Latest data from the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) showed the Philippines’ backlog stood at 6.75 million to date and could balloon to 22 million units by 2040 if left unaddressed.

‘Scrap’ certain provisions

“By amending the law and by having a collaboration among all stakeholders, the industry will become more productive and generate more jobs. It will create a cycle. More people will have the opportunity to have a decent living and own homes. That is one of the ways we can help in reducing the backlog,” Mañalac, who also served as chairman for the National Real Estate Association, said in the conference.

Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Association National President (CREBA) Noel Cariño further slammed Section 32 of RESA Law or RA 9646, which states that partnerships and corporations are required to have at least one licensed real estate broker for every 20 accredited salespersons. “We are saying technology will allow you to reach as many people as you can. But how can we ensure optimal real estate marketing with that [1:20] provision? How can we challenge it? We scrap it,” Cariño said.

Some other provisions that need to be amended, according to ABREP advocates, are Section 14 of RESA, which states applicants for the PRC broker licensure exam are required to hold a four-year degree in Bachelor of Science in Real Estate Management (BSREM); as well as Section 28 which states that rules and regulations shall not apply to any person, natural or juridical, who shall directly perform by himself the acts of a real estate service practitioner with reference to his or its own property, “except real estate developers.”

“Our primary objective here is to overhaul the regulatory framework. We hope, by way of a class suit, to start making the real estate profession more inclusive, and the industry more accessible, especially in the time of pandemic,” said Divina Law Senior Partner Atty. Estrella Elamparo.

Elamparo added the need to streamline the country’s real estate regulatory framework, wherein two authorities, the PRC and the HLURB (Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board), are currently overseeing the industry. It was in 2016 when HLURB circularized a memorandum, stating brokers and salespersons are required to register with the said agency as mandated in Presidential Decree 957 lest they be fined or face imprisonment should they fail to do so.

“We, at ABREP, are not anti-RESA, we are pro-Pinoy. The law needs to be amended, not abolished. But for any change in this law to be meaningful, it must be a united effort from all stakeholders. This is why we call upon both our fellow industry practitioners and those in the government who align with our beliefs to help make this law a better law for the Philippines,” Leuterio said.