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Rental subsidy for informal settlers proposed

A measure that provides for a rental subsidy program for squatters or informal settlement families (ISFs) in urban and rural areas nationwide won support from members of the House committee on housing and urban development.

One of the principal authors, Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, said that while the Constitution clearly states there should be continuing programs for the poor this constitutional provision is not being observed or implemented properly.

The Constitution mandates that the state “shall, by law and for the common good, undertake…a continuing program of urban land reform and housing, which will make available at affordable cost decent housing and basic services to underprivileged and homeless citizens in urban centers and resettlement areas.”

“Unfortunately, this provision of the Constitution has not been implemented properly with data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showing that there are around 4.5 million homeless people in our country, three million of whom are in Metro Manila,” Rodriguez said.

Under the consolidated bill, the government shall provide financial assistance to the homeless while waiting for government-built permanent housing.

“The aid would help them have decent living conditions,” he added.

ISFs are defined as “households living in a lot, private or public, without the consent of the property owner; or those without legal claim to the property they are occupying; or those living in danger areas such as esteros, railroad tracks, garbage dumps, riverbanks, shorelines, and waterways…”

The proposed law provides for a rental subsidy of P3,500 monthly for qualified ISFs in Metro Manila.

For those in the provinces, the monthly amount of financial aid would be set by the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and the National Economic and Development Authority, taking into consideration regional wages but not to exceed P3,500.

The assistance would be paid by the DHSUD on the basis of a list of qualified beneficiaries to be determined by the National Housing Authority.

The aid would continue to be given until the beneficiaries transfer to a permanent housing project.

Funds for the program would be charged initially against appropriations for the DHSUD. Thereafter, the needed funding would be included in the annual national budget.