THE new Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) is expected to start operations by the last week of May, according to House committee on housing and urban development Chairman Alfredo Abelardo B. Benitez, the Representative for Negros Occidental’s 3rd District.

In a phone message to BusinessWorld on Monday, Mr. Benitez said the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) 11201, creating the DHSUD, will be finalized on “May 22.”

“Yes, that is our plan,” he said, adding that the new department is expected to be operational by “last week of May.”

Mr. Benitez said his office and the office of Senator Joseph Victor G. Ejercito, who chairs the Senate committee on urban planning, are directly involved in the drafting of the IRR.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed the measure into law on Feb. 14. The new department merges the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).

The new department, according to the law, will act as the primary national government entity responsible for the management of housing, human settlements and urban development, which also means that it will formulate national housing and urban development policies, strategies and standards that are consistent with the Philippine Development Plan to promote social and economic welfare.

The department will be composed of the Office of the Secretary, and the various bureaus, services and regional offices.

The Office of the Secretary, the law also said, will house the Office of the Department Secretary, the Offices of the Undersecretaries, the Offices of the Assistant Secretaries, and their immediate support staff.

In a chance interview, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Chairman Eduardo D. del Rosario said in February that with the creation of the DHSUD, the next area of focus will be addressing the housing needs of poor Filipinos.

He said his agency is planning to come up with a proposed measure, which will be called “Republic Act on the Development and Production of Housing Units Nationwide.”

The proposed bill, he said, will target around two million informal settler families nationwide.

Also in a televised interview with One News in February, national president Noel Toti M. Cariño of the Chamber of Real Estate & Builders Association noted that one of the functions of the new department is to address the housing backlog.

“The figures will show that the production of housing has not been really encouraging. It has remained lethargic. We are producing no more than 200 thousand housing units in a sector that needs it very much. For a time before, there was a problem of financing take out (the process by which financial institutions take over developer-generated mortgages). So a lot of developers were discouraged to actually go into housing because the funds could have easily dried up,” he said.

He added that the government “should at least be producing 500 thousand units a year.” — Arjay L. Balinbin