Rep. Paolo Duterte of Davao City has pushed for the passage of a law that would grant rental subsidies to eligible informal settlers to help families living in hazardous areas or those rendered homeless by calamities to avail themselves of safe, decent shelter.
Duterte cited the urgent need for Congress to approve the measure especially with strong typhoons and other calamities continuing to displace tens of thousands of families.
The rental subsidy program as proposed by Duterte, Benguet Rep. Eric Yap and ACT-CIS Partylist Rep. Edvic Yap in House Bill (HB) 455 also covers informal settler families (ISFs) who do not have legal claims to the lots or houses they occupy.
HB 455 has been consolidated by the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development with 18 other bills that also aim to provide rental subsidies to ISFs. The recommendations of the House Committee on Appropriations have already been incorporated into the substitute bill.
The bill aims to institutionalize and further strengthen the ongoing rental subsidy and financial assistance program of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD).
Under the measure, the rental subsidy will be determined by the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), taking into consideration the prevailing minimum wage and rental rates per region.
The financial aid will continue until the ISFs have been resettled to permanent housing projects constructed by the government.
“People forced to squat on private property because of poverty, those living in danger areas, and those who lost their homes due to strong typhoons and other calamities or because they have been affected by public infrastructure projects should be given the chance to live in humane, decent conditions while waiting to be transferred to their permanent housing sites,” Duterte said.
To be eligible for the rental subsidy, the ISF should not move or relocate back to the area where they were originally residing, unless permitted by the proper government authorities; and they should pay to the lessor the portion of the rental amount not covered by the subsidy.
The measure states that the rental subsidy shall not exceed the actual rent, provided that such subsidy may be reviewed or revised by the DHSUD and NEDA at any time but not more than once every two years to conform to prevailing economic conditions.
Duterte recalled that this proposed Rental Housing Subsidy Program Act, which was among the priority bills of his father, former President Rodrigo Duterte, was already approved by the House during the previous Congress.
Based on the latest available data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), about 4.5 million Filipinos are homeless, of which 3 million are found in Metro Manila.
Among the main causes of homelessness are poverty, domestic violence, human trafficking and natural disasters.
“Given the loss of livelihood of many Filipinos resulting from the economic shock of the recent pandemic and the devastation wrought by strong typhoons that have rendered hundreds of thousands homeless, these numbers reported by the PSA are expected to rise,” Duterte said.
“Government housing projects take time to build. We cannot just neglect the plight of our homeless countrymen and allow them to continue to suffer while they wait to be resettled,” he added. Maricel V. Cruz