Published on October 12, 2012,

Written by Charles E. Buban

CRISOSTOMO. Photo by Charles E. Buban

The mushrooming of slum communities around the country’s urban areas is evident and often becomes a hurdle to the growth process.
But instead of forcefully evicting them or transferring them to far-off locations away from their place of work (as is the usual case), in-situ housing project is perhaps the best method of slum rehabilitation.
“The urban slum dwellers’ plights must be addressed with care. We should provide solutions, especially by showing ways of gainful self-employment on a priority basis so that these slum dwellers will get confidence and move out to decent localities with increased personal incomes,” stressed Subdivision and Housing Developers Association chair Manuel Crisostomo during the group’s annual national convention held in Davao City recently.
He believes the national government and its local counterparts must be proactive rather than reactive in addressing slums and the growth of urban poverty. “New approaches should be developed to integrate slums into cities. If Brazil succeeded in formulating programs that rehabilitated their slums, I don’t see why such model will not work here,” he said.
Purchase land
In Brazil, the government and its partners are helping residents of slum communities purchase the land they live on, formalizing an important asset and catalyzing economic growth.
“This enables the Brazil government to implement much-needed infrastructure such as running water, sewer systems, electricity and paved roads,” said SHDA national president Paul Tanchi citing the experience of the South American country as reported to them by guest speaker Anaclaudia Rossbach, consultant for World Bank on low-income housing settlements and metropolitan management.
Tanchi said that to help realize the plan, government must set aside P24 billion a year to subsidize those families who cannot afford a housing unit.

TANCHI. Photo by Charles E. Buban

“It may be costly but such move has implications that go far beyond providing a roof over their heads,” Crisostomo assured SHDA members.
Slums of hope
He added that slum communities, where most of the country’s urban poor live, should be regarded by decision makers as places of opportunity, as “slums of hope” rather than “slums of despair.”
Three million of Metro Manila’s over 12 million inhabitants are living in slums, according to the National Slum Upgrading Strategy (a joint project of the Philippine government and World Bank). Of these 3 million people living amid abysmal sanitation, overcrowded and crude habitation, inadequate water supply and insecurity of tenure, about half a million live in danger areas such as waterways, esteros and under bridges.
Rossbach related that once the appropriate upgrading policies have been put in place in Brazil, slum communities have become increasingly socially cohesive, offering opportunities for security of tenure, local economic development and improvement of incomes among the urban poor.
Rossbach said: “There are many reasons we should help slum dwellers. Assistance to those who cannot afford decent housing removes obstacles the homeless may not overcome on their own. The move presents a better image of the city and even decreases crime rates considering these homeless people may no longer have to steal for food or get money in any way available to them.”
She related that in Brazil, the government spent $44.3 billion (P1.8 trillion) in 2007 to take care of basic sanitation and build houses of several slum communities.
“With land title or a certificate recognizing their occupancy rights confirmed or secured, the Brazilian government was able to levy tax. Rules were set and enforced and even regular streets, schools and clinics were set up, attracting investment. It should be noted that garbage collection is now much easier as residents are now more organized in bringing their own household waste to collection points for pickup,” Rossbach said.
“There is hope. Through the private-public partnership, this country could look forward to reducing the number of families in need of better shelter. What SHDA would like to put an end to is the image of filthy urban environment and violence in the news due to hopelessness of some of these people,” Tanchi said.
He added: “We from the housing industry call on all sectors of society to participate in pushing the roadmap. It may still need some fine tuning but it is a start and with the support and participation of the private, the public and the social sectors, we can turn the 2030 vision into a reality.
This is why during the national convention, SHDA launched the “Housing Industry Roadmap 2012-2030” that recognizes the need to assist slum dwellers (the roadmap is a joint undertaking with the Center for Research and Communication-University of Asia and the Pacific) so they could be provided with more decent housing or better help them acquire one through a financial aid package.
Tanchi said: “We realized that we needed to act now because the current housing demand and supply profile excludes the 832,046 households that can’t afford financing. If left unchecked, existing trends indicate that the total backlog, which has been hounding the country for decades now, could balloon to 6.5-million units by 2030.”
He added that at this rate, the government needs to work more closely with private developers to increase production and streamline the delivery of housing units citing how avoidable flaws in the current setup greatly impede production.