PHILSTAR

SOCIALIZED HOUSING needs to be a budget priority for the next government after the current funding emphasis on transportation and public works projects, the head of a social policy institute said.

The average share of housing in the national budget between 2016 and 2022 was about 0.3%, Institute for Leadership, Empowerment, and Democracy Executive Director Zy-za Nadine Suzara said at a webinar on Thursday, while infrastructure projects usually account for nearly a quarter of the government’s spending plan.

The last time the government gave the housing sector 1% of the national budget was in 2016, in response to shelter needs after Typhoon Yolanda, she said. The housing budget as a share of government spending had since declined.

Malaki ’yung pangangailangan, so hindi pwede maging dahilan ng NHA at ng iba pang housing agencies na hindi nila kayang gumastos. Kasi kung ba-budget lang ’yung DBM ng sa kaya nilang gastusin, papaano nila mapupunan ’yung pagkukulang para dun sa urban poor communities? (Demand is huge, so the National Housing Authority and other housing agencies cannot say that they cannot spend. If the Department of Budget and Management only gives them a budget based on what they can spend, how can they fill the needs of urban poor communities?),” she said.

According to her analysis, P292 billion of the 2022 national budget has still been allocated to local projects — such as roads and bridges — despite the planned devolution of local infrastructure projects this year.

To address the problem, she said socialized housing needs to be included in the government’s broader infrastructure program and take a larger share of fiscal space.

The government, which funds housing for the police and the military, should be able to fund support for informal settlers in dangerous areas, Ms. Suzara added.

“There is a need to prioritize the most marginalized in the pipeline of programs.”

Terry L. Ridon, convenor of infrastructure think tank InfraWatchPH, said via messenger that funding for social housing in the past two administrations plateaued at a rate that cannot address the backlog adequately.

“A new administration should decisively resolve this by exponentially raising the funding for the housing sector,” he said on Monday. “Correspondingly, the absorptive capacity of agencies to implement this increased funding should be improved to ensure no wastage of funds.”

The Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development last week reported that the government produced and financed over a million housing units from 2016 to 2021. — Jenina P. Ibañez