Local Housing Boards: Another Layer Of Bureaucracy?

Among the many bills on housing and real estate pending in the legislature are several versions mandating the creation of Local Housing Boards in all cities, including first to third class municipalities, all over the country.

To say the least, real estate developers are often left alone to contend with the tedious and expensive process of securing development permit from the local Sangunians, not to mention all other permits, licenses and clearances from various government agencies, from the national down to the barangay level. Yet here comes another legislative measure seeking to make local housing boards a regular fixture in all local government units (LGUs) nationwide.

We are concerned that the local housing board will only serve as an additional layer of bureaucratic red tape in the LGUs and consequently increase development cost. This will then redound to the increase in the price of housing units as developers will be left with no other choice but to pass on the extra cost to home buyers.

If I may recall, since the function of approving development permits for subdivision projects was devolved to the LGUs by virtue of the Local Government Code of 1991, also known as Republic Act No. 7160, our development cost has, for some reason, tremendously increased, and the development period became substantially longer.

We also regret to admit that some, if not most, LGUs lack the depth of technical capacity and resources for effective shelter and urban development and management that is present in national agencies such as the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).

In all fairness, local officials are required to perform other equally important functions for their constituencies, making it hard to devote the needed time and focus in meeting their respective housing challenges.

If the HLURB has already approved the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) for every city or municipality which is expected to be implemented properly by the LGUs through their zoning powers, then the creation of another board is no longer necessary.

Lastly, aside from R.A. 7160, we already have other housing-related legislations that are meant to make available at affordable cost decent housing and basic services to the homeless.

Among them are: the Urban Development and Housing (UDHA) or Republic Act No. 7279 of 1992 which addresses balanced housing, eviction, resettlement and relocation; and the Comprehensive and Integrated Shelter Finance Act (CISFA) of 1994 which provides the mechanism for continuous funding support for pro-poor housing.

The housing industry is no doubt a vital sector in our country's future. It is a key sector of our economy that addresses not only the problem of homelessness but provides millions of jobs to the unemployed and billions of revenues to government.

However, in order for the private sector to fulfill its Constitutional mandate to assist in government efforts towards implementing a continuing program of urban land reform and housing to serve the underprivileged and homeless, government must harmonize its housing policies and do away with conflicting, unreasonable and overlapping requirements imposed upon an already heavily-taxed and highly-regulated industry.

Hence, mandating all LGUs to create their own local housing boards can only be a workable measure if the housing functions of said LGUs will be fully taken over by the new boards and not merely duplicated to institutionalize deliberate delays and justify government's slow decision-making.

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