AT a Senate public hearing led by the Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement, and held jointly with Basic Education, Ways and Means, and Finance Committees, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go defended his proposed measure, Senate Bill (SB) 203 or the National Housing Development, Production and Financing Act of 2019, that seeks to provide low-cost, accessible and affordable housing as part of the efforts to reduce homelessness in the country.
“The poor will always be my priority and will take precedence when it comes to low-cost housing programs and development, including the construction of safe and permanent evacuation centers, and housing assistance for fire victims,” Go said.
SB 203, which was one of the first ten priority bills of the senator, aims “to significantly accelerate housing production, and ensure sufficient and reliable government funding and financing for housing in the coming years.”
“The housing needs in the country has continued to grow to 6.57 million units for the period of 2017-2022,” Go explained, adding that the Philippine Statistics Research and Training Institute projected that by the year 2040, more than 22.6 million housing units will be needed.
Moreover, the Informal Settler Families (ISFs) population in the country “has also continued to increase with 1.9 million ISFs in 2019.”
The senator pointed out that in the event of natural disasters or fire incidents, many Filipino families also lose their homes.
“Marami po akong napupuntahang mga nasunugan – nawalan po sila ng tirahan. Kailangan po natin silang tulungang makabangon ulit,” Go emphasized.
“To address our long-term housing needs of 22.6 million units for the next 20 years, the government has to build 1.13 million units per year. Right now, we are only producing 128,000 units per year on average. This concern demands the full commitment and support of the government,” Go added.
If SB 203 is passed into law, various types of socialized housing programs for the poor and disaster survivors will be implemented with the National Housing Authority (NHA) taking the lead. Housing programs for low-salaried government employees will also be made available.
Moreover, Go said there’s a need to increase the budget of NHA and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) to address the housing needs of Filipinos, especially for the poor.
The senator also urged the NHA to further improve their efforts in addressing housing issues, such as pushing to renovate substandard housing units and complete the construction of units that remain unfinished so they can be readily distributed to deserving families.
“We also have problems on the substandard housing units, not only during the time of President Duterte. Sa previous administration, marami kami nakikitang housing units na nakabulagta, sayang naman,” Go said.
Go highlighted that the available units can be used by the homeless and fire victims.
With optimism, the senator offered full cooperation to move things faster and process confirmation of families that can be awarded with the units.
The senator also encouraged NHA to improve their communication and information dissemination efforts to reach out to more Filipinos who need housing assistance from the government.
“Yung information campaign drive natin, kailangan nating mas lalong paigtingin,” Go said. He added that he is also willing to help as he continues to bring representatives from the NHA on his fire site visits.
The senator is confident that the housing department will fulfill its duties and work hand-in-hand to improve the housing situation in the country.
The senator strongly urged the government to strengthen its commitment to provide a decent home for every Filipino family.
“Sana po ay wala na maging iskwater sa sarili nating bayan,” Go said.