For Jeffrey T. Ng, the real estate game came much later compared to his other, more established businesses.
Cathay Land Inc. (CLI) was founded in 1994, the Ng family’s entry into the real estate business. But Ng, CLI’s president, already saw the potential of the Sta. Rosa-Silang area way back in the 1990s. He foresaw that the growing gridlock in Metro Manila would lead to the expansion of the metropolis, and spur development in the south area.
Ng began land banking an initial 250 hectares in the Silang area, which eventually became the 1,500 hectares that comprise Cathay Land’s holdings in the Laguna-Cavite area.
Running a real estate business opened Ng’s eyes to the housing situation in the country. Developers were investing in tracts of lands in the hope of addressing the housing needs of Filipinos.
But things were not as simple as buying a parcel of land, declaring it for housing use, subdividing the lots and selling them to aspiring homeowners. Draconian laws, convoluted (and sometimes conflicting) bureaucratic processes, and the spiralling cost of land and materials, made it difficult to get developments underway. For one, conversion of land alone from agricultural to residential/mixed-use, took a minimum 24 months to process.
Ng joined the Subdivision and Housing Developers Association (SHDA) and helped fire up fellow developers into working towards a more conducive business environment for industry players. SHDA is the biggest national housing organization, with 138 members from Metro Manila, 179 from eight regions, and 32 affiliate members.
SHDA has one mandate: address the country’s housing backlog. Now estimated at 6.7 million, it is projected to mushroom to 12.3 million houses by 2030.
Ng rationalized that with each Filipino household having an average of four members, this translates to about about 26.8 million. In a nutshell, roughly one fourth of the country’s 100 million population do not have their own home. One out of four rents, lives with their parents, shares a dorm, or worse, squats.
Ng took a more active role in the organization and his efforts culminated in his being elected as first vice president in 2017, president the following year, and finally chairman of the board of the SHDA in 2019.
“We want to decrease, if not totally eliminate the housing backlog in 10 years, and this requires active involvement, not only of the private sector, but also of the government and other business organizations,” Ng said. “We want our members to be more dynamic and involved, to help coordinate with the proper government agencies and other business organizations, so that we can make the housing industry grow faster and bigger.”
New laws, new agencies
In February of 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the creation of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, a one-stop agency that will oversee, coordinate and align the operations of the HUDCC and HLURB. The department acts as the primary national government entity responsible for the management of housing, human settlement, and urban development. It is also the main policy-making, regulatory, program coordination, and performance monitoring body for all housing, human settlement, and urban development concerns.
Hard work ahead
With the possibility of more raw land available for development, the faster processing of land conversion projects, and having just one agency to deal with, Ng hopes that the simpler process will entice more housing developers to develop projects for the low- and middle-income sector. Over time, with more inventory and with more Filipinos buying their own homes, the backlog will be dented, and perhaps, arrested, he believes.
“I have done my best for the housing sector,” Ng averred. “I’m stepping down as chairman but confident that the other officers, like president Raphael Felix and first vice president Rosie Tsai, will do an even better job in working with other sectors to decrease the backlog in housing.
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