Page last updated at 04:21 Asia/Manila, Sunday, 05 August 2012 PH
As pointed out by Atty. Ojastro in his presentation during the Socialized Housing Forum at CRC, transferring informal settlers to far-off sites has been a default option, with disastrous consequences for everyone. Uprooting the settlers from their communities involved loss of social capital and mismatch between skills and livelihood opportunities. A great deal of hardship is imposed on the families, with resettlement sites usually vulnerable to natural disasters and located in environmentally critical areas such as those close to water sheds. Families are just transferred from one danger zone to another. It has also been demonstrated that no more than 10% of housing projects outside the National Capital Region are occupied by the intended beneficiaries, who usually abandon or rent out their new sites and return to the center of the Metropolis because that is where their jobs are. Forcing them to stay in far away places would impose unreasonable transport costs on them. There are also the large costs to the national government in transportation and other forms of access and the need to provide basic health, education and social services to the resettled families as well as access to utilities such as water and electricity in the far-off sites.
Thus, the real solution is to provide housing units for the informal settlers right at the places on which they have squatted. What the real estate developers who have the legitimate land titles to the areas occupied by the informal settlers should do is to set aside 20% of the area for a well-designed socialized housing project based on vertical residential units using the technology perfected by the likes of SMDC, DMCI Homes and PHINMA Properties. These developers should be willing to sacrifice whatever profit they can make on that 20% if converted into high-price, market based homes for the middle class. They can make as much profit as they want on the remaining 80%. This is the very essence of socialized housing, which involves selling to the rich and using part of the profit to subsidize decent housing for the poor. This approach fits very well the new concept of social enterprise, i.e., undertaking a business which will benefit the poor by not maximizing profit on every aspect of the business.
Some complain that putting high-priced condominium units (such as those in Rockwell or Fort Bonifacio) alongside a development for working class families would be unrealistic. These skeptics are underestimating the ability of architects to blend the two social classes in an aesthetic and harmonious way. One of my real estate development friends, Noel Gonzalez, has shown that a low-cost housing site, if subject to proper estate management provided by a company like his, can keep a low-cost or socialized housing site as orderly, clean and good looking as the rich subdivisions. The rich should never adopt a condescending attitude to working class families, considering them as necessarily dirty, unkempt and disorderly in the way they maintain their homes. After all, in a typical Filipino village, the rich generally live side by side with the poor. Land use policy should not be based on the segregation of social classes.
Let us be very specific. I would like to see the Laperal property close to Guadalupe Viejo church developed along the lines I described above. The former informal settlers there should be offered residential units to be constructed on 20% of the site. The remaining 80% can be developed with the standards of Rockwell, the site being as prime as any property nearby. The same should be done with the Welfareville property in Mandaluyong once it is privatized. The informal settlers should not be relocated to "timbukto", in the bundocks of Sierra Madre or Novaliches. Most of them are making enough incomes to be able to amortize subsidized socialized housing units, especially with the help of the appropriate government agencies. An additional benefit to the well-to-do households who will be occupying the expensive units in the 80% of the property is that their drivers, laundry women, handymen, and other utility workers can live in the socialized housing units nearby. Many of the executives in these expensive units need not suffer the stress of waiting for their drivers who get caught in traffic in the morning because they have to travel from far-away Taytay, Cainta, Angono and other sites where they are forced to reside for lack of space in the inner cities.
I realize that what I am proposing will sound revolutionary to those who can only think of the market price of properties in the center of Metro Manila. But I hope Vice President Jejomar Binay and all the officials who are working with him to address the backlog of housing units for the poor in the NCR will consider this proposal so that we can finally get the poor households living in Metro Manila to regain their dignity as human beings by not being forced to live in conditions, to put it very bluntly, fit only for animals. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org