Building a house for one family is a daunting task. It entails resources and at least a month to complete a decent house.
The Las Piñas local government was well aware of the difficulties entailed when it set out to build houses for 36,710 homeless families within a span of only 10 years. The project began in 1995, and the critics bewailed that it was a noble but unrealistic exercise given the inadequate resources and the very short period allotted. Getting halfway through their target would be incredible. And yet, somehow, they did get halfway through!
Apparently, Las Piñas took to heart the words of the late Pope John XXIII that shelter is not only a basic human need but a basic right of every person and families that must be upheld by those who have been given the responsibility and authority to do so. Of Las Piñas City’s 472,780 urban population (NSO, 2000 Census), 36,710 families belonged to the so-called urban poor, who were squatters in the twenty barangays of Las Piñas City.
But far from carrying out a mere dole-out program, the LGU elicited the participation of the project beneficiaries and set out to empower them with the aid of the rest of the community—i.e. the private sector, non-government organizations and other concerned sectors. In the preparatory stages, the beneficiaries were fervently involved in updating the census, in validating the list of beneficiaries, and in organizing the community for the housing project. They also went through a series of orientations, training seminars, workshops, and other forms of community education. These helped change the urban poor’s view of themselves and the role they played in a meaningful way.
With the development of an Informed Database, a very valuable planning tool which the Foundation for Development Alternatives and the Institute on Church and Social Issues introduced, the Urban Poor Affairs Office of Las Piñas was able to identify the specific needs and character of the urban poor beneficiary communities. Moreover, the regularly updated listing of beneficiaries made the program very relevant and more effective in the locality.
Implementing committees on the community level were established with the beneficiaries playing the primary roles, while the rest of the team provided support. The stakeholders were earnest because owning a piece of land and building a house they could call their own is no longer just a promise by some politician but an achievable goal they can actually work on.
To avoid confusion, the rules of participation and empowerment were spelled out in a Memorandum of Agreement . After land acquisition, the LGU of Las Piñas, the NGOs, the private sector and the Community Based Organizations teamed-up to develop the communities, which involved the installation of drainage and sewerage systems, road concreting, installation of electricity, as well as the delivery of other basic services.
Subsequently, the beneficiary-communities developed their own Savings Mobilization program, which entailed a stringent community collection mechanism that ensured Out of the total 36,710 homeless families, 23,138 families now have security of land tenure. regular payments of monthly loan amortizations, taxes, garbage collection fees, and other charges. The members set aside funds to collectively pay for their land and housing, with the community becoming the LGU’s implementing partner who shared and paid its dues.
Out of the total 36,710 homeless families, 23,138 families now have security of land tenure. A total of 96.9 hectares have also been acquired for the housing project. Most of the CBOs have also completed payments for their land equity and are now regularly amortizing their housing loan. Other CBOs are eagerly awaiting the release of their housing loan. The beneficiary-families are now fully integrated into the mainstream of true homeowners paying real property taxes. This translates into more funds which the LGU could flow back for social services. A total of 136 CBOs have been transformed into bona fide Homeowners Associations that plan and implement community projects as well as maintain peace and order in their areas.
The CBOs have since formed themselves into a citywide alliance called the Kasama at Alyansa ng Mamamayan sa Pag-unlad, Inc. which aims to share their acquired knowledge, skills and orientation with other communities and to lobby for the enactment of favorable policies by the City Council.
Today, the transition from blight (unhealthy environs) to a bright and healthy environment is very evident in many communities in Las Piñas. The program did not just help the beneficiaries own a piece of land and a house. It afforded them a place in society and a home for their families, where they could live with dignity as humans should.