Medium-rise buildings in urban slums: Bringing Habitat for Humanity to the next level in the Philippines -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Medium-rise buildings in urban slums: Bringing Habitat for Humanity to the next level in the Philippines

By Nestor M. Pestelos and Marcia Yogore


Habitat for Humanity Philippines was established in 1988. By 1994, HFHI set up a Philippine national office, now known as the Habitat for Humanity Philippines Foundation Inc. (HFHP).

HFHP currently maintains more than 100 communities in 20 provinces nationwide through affiliates and local management councils. To date, it has built more than 159,000 houses. Partnership with Taguig City Local Government Unit (LGU) Taguig City is a rapidly growing city in Metro Manila. It has benefited from the rapid development of the nearby Makati Business District, spurred by the urbanization of the areas covered by the Bases Conversion Development Authority, now called the Bonifacio Global City.

Due to the fast-paced growth of the Global City, Taguig has become a prime area for locating high-end residential buildings for the rich. On the other hand, the city is a magnet for the formation of squatter and informal settlements mostly by “economic refugees” from outside and inside Metro Manila.

Mayor Sigfrido Tiñga has estimated that at least 30,000 housing units are needed for Taguig residents in dire need of decent shelter. The Taguig LGU has established partnerships with various NGOs, including Habitat Philippines, to address the worsening urban housing problem.

As early as 1985, informal settlers from the Taguig area and neighboring municipalities occupied the vacant lot of the Philippine National Railway (PNR) compound. The PNR site is part of nearly 12 hectares of land located inside the Food Terminal Incorporated (FTI), a major economic processing zone in Metro Manila and home to major local and multinational manufacturing companies.

A 1995 National Housing Authority census of the settlers inside the PNR–FTI compound recorded 668 occupants, which has since increased to about 5,000.

In 2004, in order to address the problem, the national government signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the local government of Taguig and FTI to provide socialized housing for the people by utilizing a vast expanse of the land inside the PNR-FTI compound — 5 hectares was allocated for socialized housing.

In 2005, HFHP renewed its partnership agreement with the Taguig City LGU to build more medium-rise buildings (MRBs) in the city, particularly in the FTI area. (HFHP had previously partnered with them to build 10 medium-rise buildings with a grant from the European Union.)

In 2006, HFHP started on Phase 1 of the new partnership project with Taguig City on a 6,000-square-meter lot in FTI for the construction of nine buildings for 108 families, with the Rotary Club of Manila providing counterpart funding. The city government allocated the land.

In early 2007, HFHP prepared a proposal to construct 33 additional buildings for 396 more needy families in the second phase of the FTI project.

Building MRBs the Habitat way HFHP believes building MRBs is key to addressing poverty housing in the country, particularly in densely populated cities such as Taguig.

In Taguig, as in other rapidly urbanizing areas, land prices have skyrocketed as the demand for land continues to grow. Meanwhile, more and more people continue to migrate to the city and become informal settlers on private and government land. Because of the steep demand for land, Taguig cannot continue to supply government land to informal settlers for use in one-story houses, or even for row houses. The efficient use of land is therefore imperative.

The land allocated to the partnership project is owned by the city of Taguig. Home partners are allowed to use the land virtually for free (called “usufruct rights”) for about 50 to 75 years. The home partners, therefore, pay for only the house.

Partnership with government funding institutions

Affordable housing is a big issue in highly urbanized areas. This is true for both the formal and informal sectors, which will never be able to afford even the mass-produced commercially sold “low-cost” houses.

This is where HFHP is “taking urban housing to the next level.” By establishing partnerships and tapping alternative funding with quasi-government funding institutions Pag-IBIG (for the formal sector) and Social Housing Finance Corporation (for the informal sector), both sectors are finally able to own affordable houses through long-term amortizations.

Using funds raised from grants, HFHP constructs the buildings. Once the buildings are completed, Pag-IBIG or Social Housing Finance Corporation can turn around with the funds to help build more buildings. These funding institutions then collect the monthly loan amortizations from the home partners over a period of up to 30 years.

Nestor M. Pestelos currently is transitioning as regional program manager for Southeast Asia with Habitat for Humanity Asia/Pacific to a post as HFHI program adviser. He joined Habitat’s Asia/Pacific office after retirement from UNDP South Pacific as chief technical adviser on Community Development and Local Governance for a total of 11 small island and atoll countries.

Marcia Yogore has been HR and administrative manager since she joined Habitat for Humanity Philippines in 2001.