Lawmakers: Housing program too costly for gov’t, poor
The government’s socialized housing program is both out of reach for poor Filipinos living on minimum wage and too costly for the government to subsidize.
This came to light during the House appropriations panel’s hearing on Tuesday on the proposed funding for the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD).
The DHSUD is seeking P5.404 billion for its 2024 budget, of which P1.5 billion will go to interest payments for socialized housing units under the Pambansang Pabahay Para sa Pilipino (4PH) program.
Launched in September 2022, the 4PH program targets at least six million families as beneficiaries in building one million housing units every year nationwide, with lease rights extending up to 100 years.
But House Deputy Minority Leader Rep. France Castro said the P1.5 billion meant to subsidize interest payments for 50,000 housing units was too small.
She said that if the P1.5 billion were to cover one million housing units, it would mean a subsidy of P1,500 per unit.
“I think the target of one million houses a year is wishful thinking,” Castro said, adding that with each housing unit costing around P1.2 million to P1.4 million, this would be too expensive for Filipino workers earning minimum wage.
Housing Secretary Jose Rizalino Acuzar said a beneficiary’s monthly amortization for 30 years would range from P3,500 to P4,500. But with the interest subsidized by the government, this may go down to P2,000 a month, he said.
The 4PH program proposes an interest rate of 6 percent for amortization, with 5 percent to be shouldered by the government and 1 percent by the beneficiary.
But Castro maintained that “it’s a far-fetched dream for the poor to afford P3,500 monthly payments if they are making only P610 a day or the minimum wage. The poor cannot afford your proposal.”
She also expressed doubt that the DHSUD could meet its target of one million housing units a year to address the country’s housing backlog.
Marikina City Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, House appropriations panel vice chair, said the P1.5-billion subsidy for interest would end up too expensive for the government to shoulder.
“That P1.5 billion is hefty, it’s for 50,000 houses. And if you add 50,000 houses every year, you keep on adding to interest subsidies,” she said.
According to Housing Undersecretary Roberto Juanchito Dispo, the estimated interest subsidy for one million housing units is P36 billion a year.
“We are having a hard time with that computation of P36 billion, then after another year P36 billion, then if we reach three million housing units, that’s P100 billion in subsidies. So we will study our options on that,” Acuzar said.
Dispo said the agency was studying how long the government could sustain its subsidies for the interest payments.