The House of Representatives has endorsed for Senate approval a measure that aims to strengthen the right of the government to expropriate lands for socialized housing.
This after the lower chamber approved recently on third and final reading the House Bill (HB) 159 or “An Act Strengthening the Right Of Government To Expropriate Lands For Socialized Housing” authored by Rep. Jose Christopher Y. Belmonte of the Six District Quezon City.
It provides local government units (LGUs) with the power to identify and prioritize areas to be acquired or the proper agency acquiring land for socialized housing.
However, the bill said LGUs should give budgetary priority to on-site development of government lands to be converted into housing sites.
Under the bill, the areas that could be converted into sites for socialized housing include those owned by the government or any of its subdivision, alienable lands of the public domain, unregistered or abandoned and idle lands and those declared areas of priority development, zonal improvement program sites and slum improvement and resettlement-program locations.
While the bill allows the expropriation of lands, even if ownership is still the subject of a pending court litigation, it exempts parcels of land owned by “small-property owners” from acquisition by the local government.
The measure said modes of land acquisition provided are community mortgage, land swapping, land assembly or consolidation, land banking, donation to the government, joint-venture agreement, negotiated purchase and expropriation.
It added government-owned and foreclosed properties shall be acquired by the LGUs or by the National Housing Authority primarily through negotiated purchase. Qualified beneficiaries who are actual occupants of the land shall be given the right of first refusal.
Earlier, House Committee on Housing and Urban Development Chairman Rep. Alfredo B. Benitez of the Third District of Negros Occidental said the government should now tap the help of the private sector in addressing the country’s housing problems.
He added there are idle lands or properties that could be used as sites for government and private-sector socialized housing programs.
Currently, Benitez said at least 5,821.57 hectares of land in the National Capital Region are available for public-private partnership for the government’s socialized housing programs.
Of the 5,821.57 hectares, 1,234.85 hectares are government-owned and currently being occupied by informal-settler families, while the rest is idle and ready for housing programs.
Benitez added the remaining 2,401.72 hectares are private land but are also being occupied by informal settlers.
According to Benitez, the housing needs of Filipinos could balloon to 6.8 million before President Duterte’s term ends in 2022.
The lawmaker, citing the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), said 2 million of the estimated 6.8 million housing backlog were recorded in 2016.
Benitez also said the 760,400 housings needs for this year are also part of housing backlog.
He said said at least 1 million units should be constructed every year to wipe out the housing backlog.