Mabalacat is a 3rd class component city in the province of Pampanga. According to the 2020 census, it has a population of 293,244. It has a land area of 83.18 square kilometers and its poverty incidence is 7.99% as of 2015 and a revenue of P1,117,424,108.70 in 2016.
This is interpreted by most as a reality check. Good affordable housing had become a distant dream for first time employees, entrepreneurs and low income earners. Home prices have substantially increased over the past 20 years, especially rental prices. Part of the reason is that supply has not been able to keep up with demand. It is this same reason that Pampanga realtors will mention that there are a significant amount of rental units available but very few individuals with the capability to purchase.
The cost of land and manufacturing have remained high, thus creating key obstacles to the realization of affordable housing, even as investors clamor for low-cost building materials. The high cost of production has a direct effect on property development, slowing down efforts to make houses affordable.
However, according to reports of the Philippine News Agency, “demands for affordable and ready for occupancy housing units remained steady in the province amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as evidence of continuing brisk sales enjoyed by property developer Westchester Realty Corporation (WRC) in Xevera Mabalacat. Valencia said WRC sold over 1,000 units in the city alone in 2020, a positive outlook on the current situation in the province’s real property industry, one of the sectors extremely affected by COVID-19. Home buyers composed mainly of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and workers in nearby Clark Freeport, including migrants from Metro Manila, swarmed Westchester offices in Xevera Mabalacat and Bacolor to secure housing units in both township communities projects.
“DENG Urban Poor Pamu” HOUSING PROGRAM
Among the major platforms of government of mayoral aspirant Deng Tolentino Pangilinan is to scale up the provision of socialized housing for the urban poor in Mabalacat City. Majority of the officers and members of the Mabalacat Urban Poor Federation I have interviewed were overwhelmed and appreciated Deng’s inclusive program amid the apparent weak implementation of shelter-related programs in the city government.
Deng, being a veteran broadcaster, and as former chairman of the Mabalacat Water District has established ties with decision makers in the National Housing Authority, Social Housing Finance Corp. (SHFC) and also closely acquainted with the country’s largest home builder, Villar’s Vista Land and Landscapes.
A house is a reflection of value and dignity. Therefore, a scarcity of decent housing often leads to unsatisfying life and instability in our local communities. As urban population increases, we see throngs of informal settlers flocking to the cities, partly due to inequitable and inadequate sources of livelihood and employment from their places of origin.
But how will the current administration of Mayor Cris Garbo accommodate the migration of rural folks from the countryside seeking greener pastures? Led by the construction boom, the majority of real estate companies and business enterprises turn public housing into investment schemes, which is not realizable to the daily income of the urban poor Mabalaquenos. This is exacerbated by the city government’s slow implementation of the needed reforms in public housing for its constituents.
This being the case, Deng’s affordable, socialized housing program for the urban poor sector of Mabalacat City is a game changer in contrast to incumbent Mayor Garbo— who has been in politics for 24 years as councilor, vice mayor, provincial board member and mayor for almost six years—and comebacking mayorable Marino Boking Morales, known as the country’s longest-serving mayor for 21 years, from 1995 to 2016 and three years as vice-mayor.
“Affordable, socialized housing for the urban poor eradicates poverty and promotes the economic well-being of the city in particular and the country in general,” Deng noted.
With successful implementation, affordable socialized housing can play a crucial role in building wealth and eradicating poverty if it is efficiently planned and effectively executed. Deng added that he can tap national agencies like the SHFC to provide decent, resilient, and affordable homes through subsidized financial aid that can realistically allow urban poor to purchase homes through reasonable loans and unrestricted mortgages through its flagship housing initiative, the Community Mortgage Program. If I remember correctly when I was the project manager / political officer of Vice-President Jojo Binay, then concurrent head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), loans are payable in 30 years with an interest rate of 2 percent to 4.5 percent per annum, depending on the family’s monthly income. In the light of the pandemic, SHFC continues with the provision of adequate housing, which has become even more crucial now given that viruses spread fast in congested informal settlements. SHFC is the lead agency assisting underprivileged communities in securing land tenure through shelter financing and development solutions by Building Adequate, Livable, Affordable, and Inclusive houses.
Most private developers are undertaking site developments as compliance to Republic Act 10884, or the Balanced Housing Program Amendment Act, which requires subdivision developers to build socialized housing equivalent to at least 15 percent of their total subdivision area or total cost and at least 5 percent of a condominium area of project cost.
With this scheme, Deng encourages the urban poor into home-ownership by setting up a fund, known as the central provident fund. In this arrangement, Mabalaquenos are required to save part of their income and this would then be directly remitted towards their housing expenses. This vision of Deng is not just tailored for the impoverished but also for the working class and privileged factions of Mabalacat City which is currently facing a housing crisis driven by high population growth, increased urbanization, poor urban planning, dysfunctional land markets, rising construction costs, squatting of informal settlements, and underdeveloped financial systems that are incapable of meeting market demands, or unaffordable to a vast majority.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE
If and when Deng is elected, he will set aside political differences and the interest of the Mabalaquenos and the development of the city is the number one priority. Correspondingly, people will learn to live in more habitable environments and will demand for better living due to the elevated expectations of improved housing. Emancipating the underprivileged is a key driver to enhancing the economy especially in the case of a city like Mabalacat which is largely driven by an informal sector. In order to realize this doable urban poor program, Deng suggests that he will initiate and invite key stakeholders to scale and see the benefits of housing, partner with financial institutions who are willing to lend, invite foreign and seasoned real estate investors to the fore and most importantly, construct products that appeal to the market and are affordable for purchase. This will eventually lead to cleaner cities and improved standards of living in the city’s 27 barangays.