Saturday, September 08, 2007
P100M land ‘not livable’
By Linette C. Ramos
Sun.Star Staff Reporter
TEN years after the lots were bought, some P100 million worth of properties intended for Cebu City’s urban poor socialized housing program remain idle because they are “unlivable.”
The City Government has some 190,000 square meters of undeveloped land in hilly areas in five barangays, which were bought sometime in 1997 to 2000.
Unoccupied properties are one of the three reasons the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP) cited why the City Government has not fully recovered the P428.4 million it invested in urban poor housing since 1993.
This is also the reason DWUP has a low collection efficiency.
DWUP has only collected some P72 million of the total amount. Some P356.5 million has yet to be recovered.
The DWUP has registered some 58,712 urban poor families as beneficiaries of housing programs but only 67 percent or 40,237 families have benefited from the program.
During their session last Wednesday, the City Council proposed to sell the “unlivable” and undeveloped properties to private developers just so the City can recover a portion of its investments and use the money for other lot purchases.
“I don’t know what the Commission on Audit has done about this and why they did not look into this. This puts us in a quandary. What kind of a purchase is this? We keep approving lot purchases yet we have properties that have not been fully utilized,” Vice Mayor Michael Rama said.
To make sure there is no corruption in the purchase of the lots, he wants to find out who and what agencies are involved in the purchase and are on top of the selection and assessment of the lots.
“This does not seem to be sound fiscal management because remember that the money used to buy these lots is not ours, these are taxpayers’ money,” said Rama, who was city councilor when the lots were bought by the Garcia administration.
DWUP, the City’s implementing arm on land, housing, basic social services and other urban poor concerns, presented their accomplishment report to the council last Wednesday.
Charmae Pyl Nercua (FORGE’s Advocacy Officer), DWUP’s consultant cited the Sugbu Homes project in Lahug, which was originally intended for City Government employees, as one of those that are not fully occupied.
The 10.8-hectare property cost the City some P39.5 million in 1997 but, as of this year, only 2.6 hectares are occupied.
The City has to shell out an additional P23.5 million to develop the remaining unlivable areas.
Six other properties in Barangays Busay, Budlaan and Pit-os also could not be developed and are considered unlivable because the area is sloping and there are no roads and other basic facilities like water, electricity and drainage systems.
The Kapasar II site in Budlaan cost the City P10.2 million in 1999 but to this day, the 2.5-hectare lot is still entirely unoccupied.
To recover the cost of the lots, the council also proposed to have nongovernment organizations take over the properties and develop these for the City.
For Nercua, the City can still recover its investment since six of the seven idle lots can still be developed, but the City will have to spend some P29 million to make it livable.
She told the council that DWUP does not have funds to develop the sites.
“Most of the sites the City bought are unlivable and we cannot expect cost recovery unless we develop the sites. No one wants to live there because there are no roads and this is a big challenge for DWUP because we don’t have the budget for site development,” Nercua added.
Another reason she cited for the low collection efficiency is that the City has not entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with 29 community associations occupying urban poor housing sites.
Nercua said the absence of a MOA keeps DWUP from collecting from the beneficiaries who are occupying lots that cost the City some P119.9 million to buy.
There are also 36 community associations whose MOAs with the City have lapsed and still have not paid for their lots in full.
To avoid buying properties that are difficult and expensive to develop, DWUP recommended that the City Council set up guidelines for purchasing lots intended for urban poor housing projects.
Before buying any property, Nercua said the council should order an ocular inspection to make sure that the lots are livable and can be developed at a minimal cost.